Addiction and Change – Part 2

(The following is a continuation of this post.)

Addiction and the Fall

The question then arises, “If God created mankind with legitimate needs which when met, provide a pleasurable experience, then how could satisfying those needs become destructive or pathological (i.e. addictive)?” A related question would be, “Are all addictions bad things?” The answer to the first question is to be found in Genesis chapter three with the historical record of created man committing sin. Adam’s sin corrupted all of creation (Genesis 3:14-20) which include mankind’s legitimate desires. Ed Welch (2003) addresses the faulty motives (desires) of mankind in relation to addiction noting that addiction seems to be the automatic response of men and women to pleasurable activities.

The addiction of which Welch (2003) and other nouthetic counselors write would certainly be addiction that is destructive, pathological and idolatrous (Adams, 1970; Shaw, 2011). They recognize that it is mankind’s sin which causes legitimate desires and the meeting of those desires to be potentially destructive. Men and women choose to make certain processes or substances hold principle places in their lives which result in addiction (Gallagher, 2011; Welch, 2003). For the nouthetic counselor, addiction is inherently a spiritual issue which affects all people. They see addiction as a spiritual issue that must be solved by spiritual means.

On the surface, the answer to the second question would seem to be a resounding, “Yes, all addictions are bad!” In the broadest sense, that is true. By the above stated definition, addiction inhibits one’s ability to stop destructive behaviors and distress is experienced by the addict upon cessation. However, if we allow for addiction to be a part of God’s created order then according to the Bible, not all addiction can be negative, for all that God made was good according to Genesis 1:31. To bear this out, we must consider the idea of addiction as presented in 1 Corinthians 16:15 as well as the example of a sexual relationship between a husband and wife.

1 Corinthians 16:15. This verse states that the household of Stephanas had addicted (KJV) themselves to the ministry of the saints. The Greek word translated addiction here is translated devoted in the ESV and it means to set in a place of prominence or priority. Having done this, their behavior pattern became to serve and help others in a pervasive manner. There is no indication of pathology or distress here, but one might assume there was greater joy experienced while serving than when not serving for Jesus said that giving is better than receiving (Acts 20:35).

Husband and Wife. The physical relationship and resultant intimacy in a marriage relationship is a part of God’s plan for men and women (Genesis 2:24-25; Hebrews 13:4). In a sexual relationship, the brain’s pleasure reward circuits respond and are reordered much like with drug addiction (van Wormer & Davis, 2009). In the context of marriage then, increased desire for sexual intimacy with one’s partner, as well as a longing for it (distress) in abstinence would seem to be a healthy thing.

(References are listed at the end of the first post of this series.)


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