Monday, August 2, 2010

Article Published in The Gabriel

One of my articles (originally appeared last spring on my other blog) was just published in The Gabriel, the quarterly magazine produced by Christians in Recovery. My piece, entitled "Lessons in Faith: Life After Bulimia" runs on pp. 14-16 of the publication (it takes a minute to download).

Be forewarned...I do not agree with everything printed in the magazine. CIR is admittedly an integrationist organization, which, although Christian, endorses 12-Step groups and other forms of psychology-based treatment for addictions (aka life-dominating sins). Differences aside, writing for them seems like a great way to share the truth that is in Christ, and encourage Christians who struggle with substance abuse. The editors seem to really like my stuff, and have asked me to be a regular, contributing it's all good. (They have already published several of my articles on their regular website).

I noticed that they have a link to Mark Shaw's book, "The Heart of Addiction" (Focus Publishing) there as well. Funny; he is currently reading my book for endorsement! Small world.


bleusmon said...

You mentioned that CR "endorses 12-Step groups and other forms of psychology-based treatment for addictions..."

It is hard to be sure but I sense disapproval on your part by seemingly implying guilt by association. However, the rest of the addiction-treatment world is quite apart from 12-step - both in its surrender of everything to a higher power and in its effectiveness.

I recall some years ago that the addiction treatment model with the highest success ratio was 12-step at 27%. That doesn't seem high, but it was significantly higher than all the other options at that time (20 years ago). I suspect the stats remain pretty constant, if for no other reason than most suffering from addictions can't breach the wall of surrendering to a higher power n any form - even if you do call it Jesus.

An evangelcial friend was critical because the prgram does not openly endorse Jesus as that higher power, but the reality is that the Lord works in His time and His ways to bring us each to Him - most commonly, in my observation and personal experience, in a manner that can best be described as one step at a time, or incrementally.

I know for a fact the 12-step program was designed from Christian spirituality principles and that the decision was made to present it in a neutral fashion so as not to lose from the onset Jews, Muslims, other non-Christians, agnostics, and atheists of all flavors.

There are no stats I know of, but those rooms are full of stories of conversion, and specifically conversion to Jesus Christ. They rarely happened as instant, dramatic conversions. You should know that usually the act of surrender to a higher power is almost all an addicted person can manage at the time, but that tiny mustard seed of a step becomes the basis for the next step in the surrender process. Who do you suppose is choreograpohing that dance, anyway?

Talk to recovering addicts with 5-10 years or more of recovery and they'll usually explain that they came back to God over time; that in the beginning they couldn't manage any more than to "turn it over" to an unseen, unidentified higher power. However, that higher power kept working in their lives in response to their continued struggle to surrender. Over time they came to understand it was Jesus Christ who saved them.

Can there be any doubt that the Lord works in His own way, and that 12-step should not be lumped in with psychology-based programs?

God bless you and your work.

Marie said...

Hi bleusmon,

Thanks for your comment. While I would certainly agree that God works incrementally in the lives of a believer, that is not the issue with the 12-Step programs (whether or not the participant is a Christian). The philosophy behind the 12-Step model, unfortunately, is not biblical: one of the biggest problems is that it teaches addicts that they will "never be recovered; always in recovery". This is in direct contradiction to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, as well as the many NT passages that teach that the believer is a "new creation" in Christ.

Yes, "surrender" is taught, but A) not necessarily in obedience to the God of the Bible; and B) that word is fuzzy, and in AA/OA usually means an out-of-balance, Keswick view of sanctification. (This is sometimes referred to as "quietism", or "let go and let God"). Of course, it is right and good to surrender to God and rely on His Holy Spirit, but the 12-Step programs get it way out of balance; they teach that we are helpless, victimized, and powerless to change. The Bible counters this notion by exhorting us to "live lives worthy of the calling which [we]have received" (Eph. 4:1) and "live up to what [we] have already attained" (Phil. 3:16). There are many other passages that speak to our responsibility to obedience as blood-bought, Spirit-filled children of God in the Bible; unfortuantely, the 12-Step programs do not use the Scriptures as their main text, but rather the Big Book.

You mention the reported success rate of 12-Step programs. As I point out in my own book, (in reference to integrationist-model inpatient centers), "success" is a very subjective term. In biblical counseling, (which I practice), success = a changed life, living for God's glory, and obeying Him regardless of how one feels. The goal is much more than clean and sober (which is basically behavior modification). As Jay Adams says, a nouthetic counselor should not counsel an unbeliever, because it is not right to help a counselee move from one lifestyle that is displeasing to God to another lifestyle (that is equally displeasing to God). If an unbeliever seeks biblical counseling, we meet him (or her) where he's at: evangelism is in order. Assuming we are talking about Christians (which it sounded, from your comment, that you were), we need to present an accurate, biblical view of sanctification in order for the counselee to do the hard work of biblical change.

A further issue with 12-Step programs is the concept of "support". Actually, supporting a person who is stuck in sin is the least loving thing you can do (I have written about this elsewhere; and discussed why support groups are counter-productive). As far as I know, the whole concept of "sin" is notably absent from 12-Step methodology (unless things have changed; I realize there are groups which consider themselves Christian).

In my experience, counselees who have attended 12-Step groups have developed an unhealthy dependence on the group itself and their "sponsors", rather than on God and the grace He has equipped them with to overcome sin in their lives.

Marie said...

(Second half of response to bleusmon):

They rarely happened as instant, dramatic conversions

I think you are confusing justification and sanctification here. Conversion itself always happens at a particular moment; it IS instantaneous, although probably not dramatic. I agree that sanctification (the process of change, in order to be more closely conformed to the image of Christ) is a painstakingly slow, laborious process. I would further agree with you that God, in His sovereignity, uses all things - even less-than-ideal "programs" and such.

I have known Christians who have gleaned help from things like OA that, while not the most doctrinally sound counsel available, nonetheless were used by God in a particular point in their lives for good. (God used Pharoah to acheive His ends, right?) I, myslef, went for intercessory prayer at a charismatic church when I was repenting of bulimia, and I spent much time there being discipled. Although I later learned how off-the-wall they were doctrinally, I'll be the first to admit that God indeed used it at the time. However, I would never endorse the church or encourage anyone to go there -- I'd much sooner send someone to a sound, local church with a biblical counseling ministry for help.

In the final analysis, the focus must be on Christ and His revealed Word in the Bible; not on man-centered programs (no matter how spiritual) that dilute the clear instruction of the Word.

Marnie said...

Marie!!! That is so cool! I'm so proud to have a published friend! Looking forward to some skype chat soon! :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the publication! I hope it will benefit many lives.