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Got Addictions?


Some of us at Fulkerson are currently thinking about starting a "recovery" outreach to people with addictions. This week, I've been reading and thinking about things related to addictions, and decided to write-up an initial draft of a theological/philosophical grid for evaluating curriculum and developing ministry. Here it is. Any thoughts?

This is an abstract of applied theology to be used as a guideline in evaluating curriculum for ministry to people with addictions and in formulating a ministry outreach to addicts. These five statements cover the basic doctrines of God, Man, Sin, Salvation, and Church – each with the addict in view and in conscious distinction to the more secular (and secularized Christian) systems for helping addicts. Ongoing dialogue and constructive critique of this paper are welcome.

1. GOD. We believe in God as He is revealed in Scripture: as infinite, almighty, holy, just, loving, merciful and gracious; the Creator, Law Giver, Judge, Sustainer, Provider, and Redeemer; the God revealed in Jesus Christ, the God-Man; the God who exists eternally as One Being in Three Persons; the God who reveals Himself through Holy Scripture. God is not an impersonal “higher power.” He is personal, knowable, and has revealed himself to his creatures through the Living Word and written word.

2. HUMANITY. We believe that human beings must be understood in light of Scripture, as: created upright in the image of God, yet fallen through Adam’s sin; created with both an outward person (physical body) and an inward person (spirit, soul, mind, heart – these terms viewed basically synonymously); driven by the affections of the heart which orient either on God in true spiritual worship or on false, functional gods – idols of the heart; personally sinful and rebellious, driven by: an idolatrous heart – a misplaced desire to find satisfaction in the creature/creation rather than the Creator; and a rebellious heart – a heart that is at enmity with God and his law, active in sin, wickedness, and rebellion. We also want to present man as both fully responsible to God for all of his moral actions (including addictions), yet incapable of self-recovery and in need of the good news of salvation through repentance from sin and whole-hearted faith in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

3. SIN. We believe that aberrant human behavior can only be adequately explained and understood with the biblical categories of sin and rebellion. While the metaphors of disease/sickness and healing are used to describe sin and repentance in Scripture, we understand that these metaphors have in our culture become so freighted with God-less naturalistic assumptions, that they can easily be misleading. We want to clearly emphasize that addicts are not primarily victims (though they may have indeed been sinned against), nor are they determined by (though they may be influenced by) past experiences, current circumstances/environments, or biological/physiological drives/impulses. They are moral/spiritual creatures, made in God’s image, who have rebelled against the true and living God in the worship of idols. Sin is not a physiological disease which needs a biological or medical solution. It is a moral/spiritual departure from God which demands spiritual cleansing of guilt (atonement/justification) and spiritual renewal through grace (regeneration/sanctification). We will not use terminology like disease, sickness, victim, victimization, therapy, therapeutic, therapist, recovery, health, healing, etc. in such a way as to screen out the biblical doctrine of sin.

4. SALVATION. We believe that the only true solution to man’s ruin through sin, in whatever forms sin takes (including addictions), comes solely through the justifying and sanctifying grace of God revealed in the good news of the crucified and risen God-Man and Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not believe this is a simplistic answer to the complex problem of sinful addictions, though it can be applied in simplistic ways. Salvation through Christ is holistic and wholly adequate to meet the psychological/moral/spiritual exigencies created by sin. Appropriation of the good news must be made in every area of the repenting addicts’ thinking and doing. He/she must come to view himself/herself as responsible and accountable for his/her own sins. Grace and forgiveness is found in the atoning, sin-removing death of the Substitute, Jesus Christ. Power for change comes not through a program, much less through therapy or medicine, but through a Person: the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Transformation is a life-long process that demands our own cooperation in putting to death sinful desires by the power of the Spirit and in pursuing spiritual renewal through spiritual disciplines which facilitate our ongoing discipleship to Jesus.

5. CHURCH. We believe that the church of the living God is the God-given community context in which change best happens. The community of saints is an important part of the sanctification/transformation process: spiritual leaders and fellow believers help us watch our hearts and admonish us to continually trust in the living Christ and cherish the justifying and sanctifying power of the cross. The community is both a place for confessing our sins and experiencing compassion, love, forgiveness and acceptance; but it is also a place for personal accountability, tough love, and mutual admonition as we walk in the way of Jesus. In addition to this personal ministry, all believers stand in need of the ongoing public ministry of both word and sacrament and are encouraged to participate in regular worship with the gathered community of fellow believers. This commitment demonstrates humility and reminds the repenting addict that “it’s not about me.” The worship of God should terminate not on the experience of the sinner, but on the majestic grace and glory of the Savior. Neglect of this kind of worship betrays a lingering man-centeredness and self-centeredness in the heart.

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