Ray's Reviews > Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel

Addictions by Edward T. Welch
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's review
Jan 17, 2008

it was amazing
Read in January, 2004

"Full moons make people get weird and do crazy things." I believed that and never reflected on it until I was in my twenties and something encouraged me to ask, "Why in the world would that be true?"

This book speaks directly to major issues that, similarly, most in our cultural setting just assume uncritically. Even conservative and Reformed circles are little different in this regard than most of the other evangelicals and teh broader secular culture. As helpful as it has been, the AA approach is not theologically neutral and makes some fundamental errors about human nature that have done some damage.

The opening case study with "Jim" (pp.3ff.) echoes many with which I have been involved. The issue may be pornography, alcohol, drugs, or spending, but the model rarely varies. Mistakes the person has willfully entered into are lumped together and treated as a 'condition' rather than choices. Patterns of behavior are a disease. People will define themselves or others by these problems (see p. 250).

Invariably, this leads to problems from the start. People begin to move away from others in the church, in their families, among their friends, because others allegedly 'can not relate' to their specific problem (conditon) (see p. 3). People can become self-absorbed, rather than willing to address their part in the problem.

A recent example comes to mind from a discussion I had with someone trying to help a mutual friend who was being self-destructive. We were discussing the struggles of our friend involved in self-injury, deceit and other hurtful behavior. I was hoping we could discover some heart issues in this friend. What was he really worshiping in his life? What was really important to them? What are they really looking for, and where are they going to find it? How does God's grace speak to his self-slavery to these issues? How can we get the person to see the bigger picture of their life, and how they fit into the Big Story of the Universe?

But the person became frustrated with me. Could I not see this friend was just a victim of his `condition(s)?' He was certainly `addicted to affection' from women, and when he felt this being threatened he would become manipulative to get control and attention. The causes of the problems, no doubt, were a combination of genetic and environmental. The friend had technical terms (usually with acronyms) for each condition in the long list for the friend. It seemed that the Gospel was OK for our salvation and for smaller `spiritual issues,' but clearly it was psychology that was best able to address the `big' addiction issues.

Another example of the formidable practical issues with the AA world view: I have been proposing the introduction of wine as an element (along with a grape juice option) for our observance of the Lord's Supper. After all, I have argued, if Jesus commanded us to use wine in this sacrament, who are we to say, "No, we know better." The objections in our church have been mild but consistent: "What about the `alcoholics'?" My response has been, "But the church had plenty of people who drank too much. Why didn't Paul or Jesus tell us to use grape juice?" And even if abstinence (even from a small thimble full of wine) is the best policy for those who drink too much, how can the mere presence of wine be so damaging? (For an excellent argument for the use of wine in the Meal, see Jim West, Drinking with Calvin and Luther (2003), esp. pp. 121ff.). Bill W. trumps Scripture (and common sense and tradition) every time.

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