Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review: “Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave”, Edward T. Welch, Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001, 299p

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

In this book Ed Welch seeks to address addictions of all kinds. He sees addictions coming in different forms from the obvious (alcohol, cocaine, pornography, gambling) to the more subtle (exercise, people, success/winning). His desire is to think theologically about addictions. He first looks at the roots and causes of addictions and then he turns the questions of dealing practically with addictions. His approach integrates insights from psychology, sociology, addiction therapy, but most of all he seeks to begin with Scripture.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

Welch is not the most creative writer I have encountered. But he proceeds in a workman-like way, capably addressing the issues. He is strongest when looking at the spiritual roots of addictions. He suggests that addiction problems are worship disorders – we have set our affections on things other than God and these things have become idols in our lives. The solution is to seek the one who has "pleasures at his right hand" (Ps.16:11). He reviews AA approaches favorable, yet with strong cautions that our "higher power" must be the one living and true God, and that AA Meetings must not replace the Body of Christ. The book could have benefited greatly from case study examples of those who have found freedom through his ministry and approach. He includes bits of "dialogue" but they seem to be contrived to make the point. Having said that, no other book I have read seeks to be as relentlessly Biblical.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

The greatest value of the book was in evaluating the idols of my own heart. We all have addictions of some kind and they will not be defeated without "the expulsive power of a new affection". I was challenged in the persistent pursuit of truth in dealing with addictions, whether my own or those to whom I pastor. His chapter on "Respecting, Listening, and Inviting" was a call to deal gently and compassionately with those struggling. And I was greatly encouraged to create an environment in the church where dealing with addictions can take place in a Christ-centered, Church-centered, Gospel-centered environment.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p.35, "Addiction is bondage to the rule of a substance, activity, or state of mind, which then becomes the center of life, defending itself from the truth so that even bad consequences don't bring repentance, and leading to further estrangement from God"

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