With so much recent attention on addiction due to the death of Whitney Houston on February 11, 2012, one thing is clear: the world’s message regarding addiction issues opposes biblical truth.
The world proclaims the theory that addiction and alcoholism are diseases as total truth. Bill O’Reilly recently said on one of his shows that “conventional wisdom treats addiction as a disease,” but to his credit, he had two “experts” debating the disease versus personal decision issue on “The O’Reilly Factor” on February 14, 2012.
The disease concept was popularized by Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the two men who founded Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930’s. They likened alcoholism to a disease after observing a trend of common “symptoms” for those who abused alcohol.
Today, it seems the entire world accepts the notion of addiction as a disease without question or thought. Jane Velez-Mitchell, a CNN reporter who is often vocal about her own struggles with addiction, uses personification regarding the disease of addiction, often referring to addiction as a living enemy who “attacks a person” from outside and overtakes them. She called it a “disease of amnesia” in reference to those who often forget what they were like when using or first abusing the drug of choice, thus causing the return to it.
This is the nature of this disease she describes. “Addiction is the only disease that presents itself as the solution,” she stated, as though it is alive like some animal or person waiting to present itself to unsuspecting victims, who don’t know they are about to be overtaken. Those who “suffer” with this dreaded disease are to be pitied therefore as victims in Velez-Mitchell’s view, because some people have the disease while others do not.
So commonly accepted as truth, is this theory of addiction as disease true? As believers, we know that friendship with the world is enmity with the Lord (James 4:4) and we are warned not to adopt ideas that do not line up with Christ in Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Therefore, our standard must be God’s Word and not our own thoughts even though “conventional wisdom” might say otherwise.
In His Word, God never calls this problem “alcoholism” or “addiction.” Instead, He calls it “drunkenness” and/or “idolatry” because to be drunk with wine is sin that will lead to destruction according to Ephesians 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Debauchery means an “utterly ruined life” which is what our loving God warns us about as He speaks the truth in love to us so that we might not be enslaved by our own fleshly desires to be drunk with wine (Gal. 5:16-21). God holds us responsible for our decision to choose to sin and calls us to recognize the power of this problem to overwhelm, dominate, and ruin our lives. The solution is learning to live in a close relationship with Christ yielding a Spirit-controlled life rather than a pleasure-driven, escape-seeking, self-serving lifestyle of drug abuse, alcohol overuse, or utilizing any other pleasure to excess (Eph. 4:17-24).
Interestingly, on the other end of the spectrum, some Christians and even secularists think of addiction as purely a demonic problem. When Josh Hamilton, an All-star caliber baseball player who professes faith in Christ, recently “relapsed” by drinking alcohol in a Dallas-area bar, one reporter stated: “Those are some pretty strong demons he’s fighting and he’ll likely be very upfront for the strength and support he’s seeking as he continues to battle them.”
While closer to the truth, viewing addiction purely as a spiritual problem that requires a daily battle against demonic forces has the same problematic result of the diseasing theory: a “victim mentality.” Both of these errors (diseasing and demonizing addiction) place the person in the category of somehow not being responsible for what has resulted in their lives. God holds everyone responsible for willfully choosing to take their pleasure or drug of choice in excess.
Biblically, addiction is a spiritual problem, but the problem must first be re-labeled as sin in order for the Bible to make sense and for the real remedy to be available. Blaming a theoretical disease or a demon for this idolatrous problem of the heart will fail to bring any confession of sin and repentance and renders the Bible useless in the so-called victim’s eyes. Blaming something other than self also points people away from Christ.
Why? Nowhere in the Word of God is there any mention of alcoholism! Blaming a disease or a demon not only removes responsibility but also hinders the solution from ever being talked about. If there is no sin, then there is no need for Christ who died to pay the penalty and punishment of that sin. Christ is the solution to their sin choice problem and His Spirit and Word are just two of the provisions God has given for them to be transformed. Calling sin ‘sin’ is calling the sinner to a decision to obey or disobey Christ.
Language is vital. Without a proper diagnosis of the problem in biblical language, there seems to be no real solution. The world calls this sin a “progressive, chronic, and fatal disease” for which there is no hope of overcoming since one must learn to cope with the disease by attending self-help meetings in a hopelessly perpetual state of being commonly called “recovery.” Today is all that is promised for the Christian, but we must serve Him all the more strongly. A real thriving relationship with Jesus is unique and personal. You are hopeless without Christ Jesus, but you are hope-filled with Him as your eternal hope. You must struggle against temptations to sin daily, but you are promised strength for the battle in Christ alone (Phil. 2:13).
There are some well-meaning but faulty thinking Christians and secularists who mislabel this problem either as (1) purely a physical disease or (2) purely a demonic spiritual malady requiring deliverance and a daily spiritual battle of rituals to keep the demons away. Instead of both of those extremes, the Bible quite simply declares sins of an addictive nature to be spiritual problems that enslave, dominate, and devastate those who choose to give in to their flesh by feeding idolatrous desires. Yes, even believers must learn to crucify the flesh (Gal. 5:24) and ask God to replace those desires with His Spirit and new desires to please Him alone (2 Cor. 5:9). Believers cannot continue to walk in the futility of their minds but must be renewed in the spirit of their minds by the power of Christ (Eph. 4:17, 23; Rom. 12:2).
Join the Conversation
How would you compare and contrast your biblical perspective on addiction to the model presented here?
Why is our language important in biblical counseling? Do you start with Scripture when thinking through issues like addiction in biblical counseling or do you start with conventional, cultural, and so-called worldly “wisdom” and ideas?
 Source: Yahoo Sports News.