27 October 2010

Addiction or Disease; Sin or nature; Confession or rehab

I went to a seminar yesterday that appeared promising by its invitation. It was to be about drug addiction and how the Church might help to not only stem the tide, but aide those who were addicted to drugs and alcohol. There is a new organization here in Porter County that was putting on this seminar and their object is substance abuse recovery exclusively for young adults. This is a commendable objective and Porter County, IN has a very high incidence of Heroin addiction beginning with young children.

Although I was not able to stay for the entire seminar, I was there long enough to hear the primary speaker talk about addiction as a disease not unlike cancer. The more he spoke the more he emphasized this point and the more and more distant would become the help of the Church. With all of his psycho speech and inclusive language designed to not stigmatize those addicted to drugs, there became no room for confessing the use of drugs as a sin.

The language used made using drugs not a matter of sinful choices but rather problems with nature and nurture. Although there was talk about the guilt and shame an addict might feel or experience, that was to be solved by including them in church, welcoming them and not ostracizing them. There was no place for confession and absolution.

There were many lay people from non-Lutheran denominations in attendance to whom the idea of confession and absolution would be either entirely foreign or "Roman" and in either case would in their opinion make for more guilt rather than relieving guilt and shame in the absolution.

I found this to be very sad, and with the exception of a brother LC-MS pastor who stated that they were making a two legged stool (biology and psychology) that was missing the third leg, theology, there were none who saw the Church's place as one of reconciliation, forgiveness, or peace apart from inclusiveness. They all missed the point that Christ removes sins, grants peace and gives us a clean conscience before God in the absolution.

Although there may be some pre-disposition to alcohol abuse via heredity, I do not believe there is such a thing for drugs with the possible exception of those who have been exposed to them while in utero. Taking drugs or drinking alcohol is a choice and choices come with consequences. All sin has consequences. Sometimes severe, hence we have prisons and jails, sometimes less severe thus we have rehab facilities and support groups. But they are sins none the less and confession and absolution is or should be an integral part of any recovery or rehabilitation plan. The same would be true for those addicted to pornography.

As a brother spoke about that yesterday he said that for all of these there must be a resignation to a great deal of hard work and discipline to eliminate these addictions from ones life. There was no intimation that such things would be easy but I believe that he would also agree that these are not diseases for which some medical or psychological remedy is the real answer but rather confession and absolution followed by a mixture of medical and or psychological helps, self-discipline and of course a regular diet of the gifts of God in Christ Jesus.

I must say that I was disturbed by the direction this presentation went. Am I missing something or is this just another work of Satan to lead men away from the mercy and forgiveness of sin in Christ and into self-help, societal blame and tolerated inclusion of unrepentant sinners.

I am not insensitive to this problem nor to those who are faced with it as it is devastating to families and communities as well as hard on the Church. Yet I believe we must keep things in proper focus and call a thing what it is. We know that all that is not good is the result of sin in the world. Not necessarily the sin of the person afflicted but the result of sin and all that God might be given the glory and not men. Confession and absolution puts these things in the proper perspective. We are sinners in need of forgiveness.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us." First John 1:8-10

Let us begin here, confessing our sins and receiving His absolution and then move from that place of a good conscience with God to strive to do better. But let us always return to confession for we daily sin much. Yes, I have inherited sin and inherited depravity from my first parents. May I never deny this or presume that somehow it has been removed and thus I can be good by myself by my own desire. Our disease is sin and Jesus is the cure. All of these other things are symptoms, manifestations of our sinful nature.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"Am I missing something or is this just another work of Satan to lead men away from the mercy and forgiveness of sin in Christ and into self-help, societal blame and tolerated inclusion of unrepentant sinners."

You are spot on. Satan's work is this - he desires to have the Church miss the forgiveness of sins and thus destroy her. You aren't missing anything here.

Mr. T said...

I'm an LC-MS guy and worked with a friend of mine who's a minister on putting together an article that addresses a lot of these issues - it's called Grace in Addiction. Would love to get you a copy. How do I get in touch with you? There are excerpts at mockingbirdnyc.blogspot.com

Pastor Foy said...

Mr. T, you can contact me a reverendfoy@gmail.com