According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. with over 53,000 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic. These numbers climbed to an excess of 59,000 deaths in 2016. The medical profession has been accused of over-prescribing opiates. One doctor in Michigan from January 1st into August of 2017 had prescribed more than 500,000 opioid pills. Investigators said roughly half of these pills ended up on the street. A Rassmussen poll reported that through a national telephone and online survey, 44% of American adults say abuse of opioid drugs is a major problem in the area where they live. That’s just one of many addictions; there’s also alcohol, pornography, gambling, food, and the list goes on. How do we deal with this matter? How should the church be addressing it? How about the family impacted by a member who has such an addiction?
Joining Jim to discuss this issue was Dr. Mark Shaw. Dr. Shaw currently serves as the founder of Truth in Love Ministries and is the executive director of Vision of Hope. He’s also accepted a position starting in September as a vice president at the NewDay Center in Indianapolis. With 26 years of supervisory experience in a variety of clinical settings, he teaches the truth and hope found in God’s work about addiction of all types, eating disorders, self-harm habits, and other enslaving issues. He has a Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Counseling while also maintaining certifications with three different counseling organizations: ACBC, IABC and AADAA. He’s the author of 20 publications including the book discussed on this edition of Crosstalk, ‘The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective’.
The program began as Jim asked Dr. Shaw the following question: Whether the area of addiction is related to alcohol, opioids, gambling or any other addiction, is ‘disease’ a proper word for this?
Dr. Shaw starts with Scripture and he noted that nowhere in Scripture is addiction called a disease. He described it as,’…an idolatry problem; a heart problem that people struggle with in their sin nature. And so disease is the worldly terminology that I think actually does violence to the Gospel and leads people away from Jesus Christ.’
So how did we arrive at the common usage of the term ‘disease’? Dr. Shaw went back to the 1930’s as he mentioned 2 individuals he described as Bill W. (who never professed to be a Christian) and Dr. Bob. The thought was that alcoholism must be a disease so the 12-step treatment method was developed to help people suffering from it.
Dr. Shaw noted an important point related to this issue that concerns idolatry. This is putting something other than God in His rightful place. We’ve all been guilty of that at one time or another. Our tendency is to put ourselves ahead of God because we want to please ourselves. Idolatry sounds like a harsh term when actually it’s compassionate. It leads people to realize their sin nature and that they need Christ; that He speaks to addiction when you define it as a habitual heart problem. At that point there’s hope and the Gospel makes sense.
As this program moved along, Jim also had Dr. Shaw address the following:
–Dr. Shaw uses 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as a pattern for his book. What is the
correlation between these two verses of Scripture and the subject of addiction?
–Does he recommend self-help groups for people struggling with addictions?
–How does he feel about the use of the word, ‘recovering’ when describing
–Does Proverbs 23:29 lay out the characteristics of those who are hurting and may
be engulfed in addiction?
–What are the spiritual consequences of addiction?
–The battle in the mind.
–Ultimately, where is hope found for overcoming addiction?
–What role does prayer have in this matter?
–In his book Dr. Shaw says, ‘The end of the matter is just the beginning.’ What
does he mean by that?
Dr. Shaw’s e-mail address:
‘The Heart of Addiction’ is available for a donation of $15 through VCY America at www.vcyamerica.org or by calling 1-800-729-9829.