A Biblical Response to Dependency and Addiction

Dr. Ab AbercrombieWorried man

Dependency and Addiction

According to experts, alcohol and drug addiction are diseases; obesity and overeating are due to genetic predisposition; obsessive relationship attachments are labeled “codependent;” and excessive spending may be a symptom of bi-polar disorder. To refer to these matters as sin is considered taboo. After all, it isn’t our fault if we have a physical malady, genetic flaw, poor childhood, or biochemical imbalance.

Focusing on sin, some argue, is harsh and promotes guilty, shameful emotions. I argue that telling someone there is no remedy or cure for their behavioral prison is harsh. Without transformation, we can only teach someone to manage their illness rather than resolve their sin.

Addiction is indulgence of the flesh and the temporal pleasures that come with the element of attraction. For some substances, medical addiction can, and does, become a complicating factor making deception and entrapment still greater. Yet in its origin, it is the placement of something or someone above God.

Edward Welch (2001) calls addiction a worship disorder, pointing to idolatry as a central theme in our excessive consumptions. He writes:

Furthermore, the problem is not outside of us located in a liquor store or on the Internet; the problem is within us. Alcohol and drugs are essentially satisfiers of deeper idols. The problem is not the idolatrous substance; it is the false worship of the heart (p. 49).

Scripture states: “Now the works of the flesh are evident…” (Gal. 5:19). If the cravings and actions of our flesh are evident (obvious), then through them our heart is revealed. The heart conveys our affection; our devotion of time and energy; our longing; and our commitment.The heart invested fully in a person or substance will have little evidence of godly worship, service, or holy conduct, as these assets cannot be attained apart from godly adoration.

Many suggest that the Bible has little to say about addiction in general. For example, the Bible does not speak of pornography, drug addiction, or relationship dependence at all. The Bible also does not mention automobiles and rocket ships because they did not exist at the time God gave His revelation. But theologically and structurally, Scripture has volumes to say about idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14), worship (John 4:23), respect and maintenance of the body (1 Cor. 3:16-17), lust (1 John 2:16, sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7), temperance (1 Cor. 6:12), and pure meditations (Ps. 19:14). Perhaps Paul summed it up best:

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any (1 Cor. 6:12).

Read MoreA Biblical Response to Dependency and Addiction

Seeking Someone To Devour…

Dr. Ab AbercrombieAbuse victim

During a time of great distress and persecution, the apostle Peter wrote to the church: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). These words are well known to Christians but few understand the gravity of the threat. Most have not experienced the focused attack of the enemy, set on destruction and death.

But Peter is stern in his warning, knowing that a faithful walk with Christ and devoted service to the Kingdom, will most certainly arouse the devil’s appetite. Therefore believers are called to be “sober” in spirit; calm, temperate, and circumspect. Like soldiers in battle we must be “alert” and clear minded; always in a state of preparedness, knowing that the “adversary” is intent on our destruction.

Many Christians wrongly assume that obedience and service lead only to earthly blessings. But in truth, our reward is eternal and glorious, not bound by the constraints of this world (Rom 8:18). Jesus was clear that while in this world, His followers would be subject to the same persecution He endured:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…” (Jn 15:18-20a).

Read MoreSeeking Someone To Devour…

Pornography: Addicted or Enslaved?

 Dr. Ab AbercrombieChain broken

The Question of Addiction

There is a great movement underway to define pornography use as an addiction or dependency. Within this effort, there is even a call to define this particular issue a disease. As a Biblicist I would expect nothing less from humanistic, secular psychology, which has long been an advocate for excusing unhealthy conduct under the guise of illness. But to my surprise, it is not the psychologists who are to blame this time.

In fact, in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (5th Edition), pornography addiction was rejected as a mental disorder. In other words, the mental health profession does not acknowledge pornography as an addiction or illness (Cassidy, 2013).

When one considers the mindset of secular psychology, this point is understandable. In psychology normal is what most of the people do most of the time. Therefore, if most people use pornography, and most experience no consequence or distress in doing so, then the practice is not dysfunctional. Psychology considers pornography a problem only if there is a secondary or related effect like depression, anxiety, etc.

Yet when one conducts an Internet search, the term pornography addiction is proclaimed a medical fact by significant and influential leaders who ignore even scholarly research to advance their agenda. Regrettably the most outspoken proponents of this addiction model belong to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of our leaders have decided it is more compassionate to label Christians addicted and ill rather than sinful.

Read MorePornography: Addicted or Enslaved?

Marital Abandonment

Dr. Ab AbercrombiePensive Woman

Don had been married thirty years to the wife of his youth. Together they raised three children, built two careers, and seemed headed for late-life contentment. Suddenly Don’s wife announced, “I don’t love you. This marriage has been a mistake from the beginning. I want a divorce.”

Janice had been married 19 years when her husband left her without explanation. Within weeks, he abandoned his job, relocated, and refuses to speak to his wife and children. As a stay-at-home mother, she is without financial support and terrified for her future. Her husband has “left the grid” and refuses to respond.

Both couples profess Christ and previously demonstrated evidence of salvation and fruit within their respective homes. Regrettably these stories are far too common within God’s Church, and the Body is facing an onslaught of spousal abandonment. There is increasing need for biblical counsel on this topic and we must examine God’s Word on the matter.

As a biblical counselor I have repeatedly heard that  “abandonment” is biblical grounds for divorce. I have heard it from pastors, leaders, and individuals who have been deserted. But does Scripture support this claim. Jesus said:

“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE ‘; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt 5:31-32).

Jesus never wavered on this point. No other reference to an acceptable divorce appears in Scripture. And even the matter of sexual immorality is to first be addressed under the biblical themes of forgiveness, reconciliation, and obedience to the admonition that God hates divorce (Mal  2:16).

Often the victim of abandonment will have no choice. The spouse who leaves may initiate a divorce and refuse reconciliation. On this point, the rejected spouse has little recourse. Yet too frequently, the abandonment results in a prolonged separation, with the absent spouse taking no steps toward a permanent ending. What then should be our counsel?

Read MoreMarital Abandonment

“It’s Not My Job…”

Dr. Ab Abercrombieshutterstock_137708114

In the Book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote about the importance of sanctification and maturity in the Christian life:

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…(Eph 4:14-15).

“As a result” of preaching, teaching, evangelism, and biblical care, the saints are to be unified and equipped with knowledge, maturity, and unity, moving collectively toward the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-13). Therefore the unified, mature, and prepared Body of Christ should be growing in stability, with correct doctrine, not subject to false teaching and deception, and capable of expressing “truth in love” to one another, so that all grow up into the likeness of Christ.

Truth in love is the foundational work of biblical counseling. In its truest application, biblical counseling should occur constantly within the normal day-to-day discourse between believers, as we focus our intent and movement toward the goals of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, this piece of biblical care is typically left to the pastoral staff or trained counselors, and often occurs only when spiritual issues have grown into urgent crises.

Read More“It’s Not My Job…”

Hurricane Katrina: What is God Doing?

Dr. Ab AbercrombieHurricane aftermath

Michael and Angela share the first mattress on the left as you enter the shelter.  Both in their mid-twenties, are trying to occupy their three daughters in the midst of the chaos around them.  There is a panicky energy about them; the kind of uneasy tension that comes when one is lost and without direction, running low on hope.  They are stranded in a small rural shelter in Alabama, over 175 miles from their home in New Orleans; a home that is no longer standing.

“We were hoping to leave New Orleans anyway” says Michael, trying to find an upside to his situation.  “I just want to find work and get a place for my family to live.  I’m a good carpenter and I’ll work hard.”

Myrna is across the shelter on the opposite wall.  She is a single mother with two daughters: a twelve-year-old, basketball star/honor student and a two-year-old toddler, who isn’t quite sure where she is and why she can’t go home.  “This is the third shelter we’ve been in since the storm” Myna said.  “Every time they move us we get farther from home.”  Home is Pascagoula, MS about 50 miles away.  Myrna and her children were awakened by the rush of water rising against their front door.  The hurricane they thought was far enough west had made a last second jog to the east, and now the storm surge threatened her family’s survival.  Kicking out a window, Myrna and her children escaped by foot to a near by fire station where they rode out the storm huddled together on the second floor.

Myrna starts to cry quietly.  “I try not to let the children see me upset.  My twelve-year-old is already so hurt.  Every time it rains or she sees lightning, she starts to panic.”  Myrna works in housekeeping for a hotel that no longer exists.  She has no vehicle, no clothes, no money.  “I don’t know where I am going from here.  I have family in Atlanta so I guess I’ll go there for a while.  I want to get away from the coast.  I don’t want my babies to go through any of this again.”

Read MoreHurricane Katrina: What is God Doing?

Evil Strikes A Blow: God’s Answer For Boston

Dr. Ab AbercrombieMan face in hands

This week evil asserted itself on the streets of Boston. Some individual, group, organization, or political force executed and maimed numerous innocent people and struck fear into the hearts of a city and threatened the security of a nation. Parents, spouses, family members, friends, and America are left with questions that are all too familiar.

Why did this happen? 

What is the purpose of it all? 

What should we have done to prevent it? 

How will we prevent it the next time? 

Where was God and why did He allow this to occur?

These are among the questions heard from believers and non-believers. They are similar to the inquiries made after natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. We heard them after Newtown, Virginia Tech, 911, the Oklahoma bombing, and Columbine. There seems to always be a part of man that is surprised, and shocked, by the presence of evil and the devastation it can wield.

Many today feel frightened, angry, and uncertain. We turn to one another for support and call out to supposed experts for answers. But the world and all of its wisdom can offer no answer for willful, violent sin. The field of medicine cannot explain it; psychology does not interpret it; and law enforcement will never completely contain it.

Yet, Scripture provides a word of encouragement—a word of assurance—a word of promise and sufficiency.

God Almighty reigns eternal (Ps 47:8). He is sovereign and perfect (1 Tim 6:13-16). He is merciful and long-suffering (Ps 86:15). He is a God of order and purpose (1 Cor 14:33, Prov 16:4). His love endures forever and ever (Ps 89:2) and His judgment is righteous (Gen 18:25).

Satan, Scripture tells us, is the ruler of this world (Jn 14:30); but his reign is brief.  He is a mocker of God, a liar and deceiver, and the truth is not in him (Jn 8:44).  He loves destruction, he deals in chaos, and he rages against this world because his time is short (1 Pet 5:8).  His power is a counterfeit imitation—it will not prevail! (Rev 17:14).

Even so, how do we explain the murder and destruction, the bloodshed and chaos? How do we answer the questions of the grief-stricken and give reason to madness?

Read MoreEvil Strikes A Blow: God’s Answer For Boston