What are you addicted to?

2011 12 Jan

At Immanuel Bible Church, where I have the privilege of serving on the pastoral staff, I'm currently working with a member who is in the grip of destructive addictions. A helpful resource I've been working through is Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Edward T. Welch. I knew I was learning from a wise counselor when I came across the following paragraph in the preface: 

What is the basic point of this book? Theology makes a difference. It is the infrastructure of our lives. Build it poorly and the building will eventually collapse in ruins. Build it well and you will be prepared for anything. The basic theology for addictions is that the root problem goes deeper than our genetic makeup. Addictions are ultimately a disorder of worship. Will we worship ourselves and our own desires or will we worship the true God? Through this lens, all Scripture comes alive for the addict. No longer are there just a few proof texts about drunkenness. Instead, since all Scripture addresses our fundamental disorder of worship, all Scripture is rich with application for the addict.

This rings true to me. Indeed, addictions are a disorder of worship. By definition an addiction is something that has our total allegiance. If we are addicted, we give our whole self to the object of our addiction. Another way of saying this is to say that we worship what we are addicted to.  

And what is so refreshing (and helpful) about Welch's book is his prescription, namely, theology. Indeed, Welch dares to put two words together: 'practical' and 'theology'. Practical theology, according to Welch, is "theology in action." Moreover,

It is the application of theological teaching to life. Is is asking "So what?" of our theological propositions. What difference does it make that I am united with Christ? What does it mean that people are idolaters? What difference does it make that I am created in God's image? All theology is practical theology, but some theological statements are still waiting to have many of their applications unpacked. 

Jesus Himself seems to think theology is immensely practical when he likens what convictions we build our life upon to how we build a house (cf. Matt. 7:24-27).  

A big part of pastoral ministry is to bring biblical theology to bear on the myriad of addictions going on in our people's hearts--even as we let the Word of God search our own. We do this so that all the energy we put into countless sinful addictions can be redirected to the worship of our great God in Christ. We do this so that worship can be made aright.