The Evangelical Calvinist

"The world was made so that Christ might be born."-David Fergusson

How the concept of ‘Addiction’ can become an Idol

Addiction has become almost trendy in our North American culture; not to make light of it. But it has become a dominant component of our lexicon and how we think about destructive issues, culturally. For the rest of this short post I will briefly reflect upon ‘addiction’ and how it fits with God.

I have struggled with certain ‘addictions’ to certain patterns of behavior etc., as I am sure we all as fleshy human beings have. But what I have come to notice is that the concept of ‘addiction’ has come to take on an idolatrous kind of altitude in the way we think. We have come to identify certain behaviors and our sometimes lock-step with said patterns (whatever that might be) to a special extra-ordinary level; and then with other patterns of behavior (culturally) things that used to be considered destructive ‘addictions’ have become normalized and normative patterns of human reality and day to day existence.

My concern though, as I alluded to above, is that ‘addiction’ has been given much too much power for its own good. Do we as human beings get stuck in ‘ruts’ and enslaved to pet and particular patterns of behavior that are destructive? Yes! But when we start giving into this culturally conceived notion of ‘addiction’ I think that we kind of start taking on a victim mentality, and we attribute special statuses to certain types of addiction that are seen as addictions in our society (or at least behaviors that are evidently destructive in our lives, personally, and in the lives of others). I think that when we fall prey to this in uncritical ways we end up elevating these ‘addictions’ to levels that can become greater than God and his power to intervene, subvert, and reverse such behavior. We end up short changing the relevance and power of who God is and what he has done for us, and is doing for us through the cross and currently in High Priestly session at the right hand of the Father. In other words, I think we have created (culturally) a category (i.e. “addiction”) that annexes God from the picture, and leaves us to ourselves (and so we seek out means of overcoming our addiction that requires something more special than appeal to God’s intervention in our lives – so idolatry).

I do believe that there are patterns of behavior (sinful ones) that when cultivated and engaged in over time can actually begin to impact our physiological make-up. But, and to the point, what Jesus did at the cross is not some abstract nether-worldly reality that has no concrete or bodily impact upon our thoughts and behaviors physiologically; to the contrary! As Christians we believe in an actualized, physicalized, and bodily death, burial and resurrection of Jesus; not only that, we believe in a bodily ascension, priestly session (currently at the right hand of God), and second coming of Jesus for us. So there aren’t, then, patterns of sinful addictive behavior that are outside the bounds of his domain and control; he is Lord, and his life has so deeply penetrated our lives, that by the Spirit, this can and should have concrete and bodily impact upon us, even in our deepest and most wanton (i.e. ‘addicted’) ways.

My basic point in this post is simply to identify that there is nothing greater than God in Christ. As Christians we don’t worship a Platonic deity who lives in some perfect, mystically spiritual world that has remained untouched by our waywardness. Instead we worship a God who became flesh, took our dark, destructive hearts with him to the cross, put that to death (Rom. 8.3), and recreated us with himself in his resurrection and ascension (Rom. 6–8). This isn’t only a hope and reality for the future, but it is this future reality and hope that breaks in on us moment from moment in bodily and real life ways from moment to moment, day to day. There is no addiction greater than God in Christ; that is my point!

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. I John 4.4

Holbein Dead Christ, detail




Written by Bobby Grow

February 27, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Reflection

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. In psychspeak, Bobby, I hear you saying— Because the Son assumed our physiology, he is Lord, not only of our explicit (or conscious) thoughts, but also of our implicit (or unconscious) minds and brains. Therefore he has power over both the vices that our explicit minds disavow, and also those that have altered our brains. We should not speak of ‘having addictions’ as if he did not. We should pray for his help.


    Bowman Walton

    February 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm

  2. Bowman,

    Yes, it really just an implication of my view of election, the vicarious humanity of Christ, and the ontological theory of the atonement; applied.


    Bobby Grow

    February 27, 2015 at 4:40 pm

  3. Excellent, as usual. Serendipitously, I was writing about this today myself, so I am as intrigued by how you said it as by what you said. You may have the American market in ‘gritty social realism + christology’ firmly cornered.


    Bowman Walton

    February 27, 2015 at 5:47 pm

  4. Thanks, Bowman! 🙂

    Do you have a link to what you’ve been writing on this?


    Bobby Grow

    February 27, 2015 at 6:44 pm

  5. Not yet. This has several moving parts…

    Liked by 1 person

    Bowman Walton

    February 28, 2015 at 7:44 am

  6. Hey Bobby,

    How familiar are you with AA (and its derivative versions for sex, narcotics etc.)? I only ask because some of the pairings you provided for the language of ‘addiction’ are not universally true for all recovery programs.

    Forgive me if you know this:

    The AA model teaches both a sense of powerlessness and skepticism, but also submission, accountability, and growth. The first step, admitting you have a problem, is followed by the second, where one is powerless to do anything about it barring the divine. While AA is vague, and can be humanistic, it certainly understands the old man-new man dynamic at play in Scripture (as I understand it).

    In fact, the talk of addictions is odd for our self-esteem, self-help, power of positive thinking world. The best of AA is ripped right out of scriptures: we need accountability, honesty, authority, and submission to something (or Someone!) outside of ourselves. It doesn’t excuse backsliding and falling, but it’s not surprised.

    Christ is risen, the King is triumphant. He is the Anchor outside of us that roots in our souls and builds the helpless to walk in confidence. Without Him, we die and wither.

    peace and love,



    March 4, 2015 at 12:32 pm

  7. I didn’t have AA or any group in particular in mind, Cal. I was just reflecting from a personal vantage point. I don’t like the way addiction has come to function in the general ethos of society. It has too much victim-hood and defeat tied to it in my view. Like a kind of naturalistic determinism.


    Bobby Grow

    March 4, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Comments are closed.