Monday, July 16, 2007

Sin as addiction

I've been reading through the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book these past several months, and I am struck by its general wisdom as well as its applicability to many aspects of Christianity. Here it uses the metaphor to describe alcoholism, and I am struck by how it also describes many forms of sin.

“Our behavior is as absurd and incomprehensible, with respect to the first drink, as that of an individual with a passion, say, for jay-walking. He gets a thrill out of skipping in front of fast-moving vehicles. He enjoys himself for a few years in spite of friendly warnings. Up to this point you would label him as a foolish chap having queer ideas of fun. Luck then deserts him, and he is slightly injured several times in succession. You would expect him, if he were normal, to cut it out. Presently he is hit again, and this time has a fractured skull. Within a week after leaving the hospital a fast-moving trolley car breaks his arm. He tells you he has decided to stop jaywalking for good, but in a few weeks he breaks both legs.”

“On through the years this conduct continues, accompanied by his continual promises to be careful or to keep off the streets altogether. Finally, he can no longer work, his wife gets a divorce and he is held up to ridicule. He tries every known means to get the jaywalking idea out of his head. He shuts himself up in an asylum, hoping to mend his ways. But the day he comes out he races in front of a fire engine, which breaks his back. Such a man would be crazy, wouldn’t he? (p. 37-38).”

If we think of God as the source of light and good, then turning away from Him, i.e., sin, is equally destructive and futile as this jaywalking.



Jerry said...

There was an interesting book I remember reading by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. several years ago, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, that has a chapter on Sin as Addiction--it's one of several metaphors he explores for it. It's a very C.S. Lewis concept as well--we become morally myopic, focused too much on just certain desires. And looking at a text like Romans 7--sin is doing something we really don't want to do, which fits the idea of addiction well.

I've heard several people say that 12 step groups are more like what the church should be than most churches. Maybe that's the truth.

Brad Wright said...

Thanks for the tip, Jerry. That looks like a very interesting book... certainly a timely topic, always!

There is an element of authenticity and brokeness at 12 step programs that would be great to have more of in church.

trrish said...

"Bill" who wrote the Big Book was supposedly a follower of Emmanual Swedenborg, a mildly controversial Christian in Sweden in the 1800's. Swedenborg's writings are the basis for the New Church (

Swedenborg outlined 7 steps to deal with sin. These steps are at the heart of the 12 steps.

Brad Wright said...

That's interesting, Trish. Bill W. would be interesting to read up on, given what an influence he's had on our society.

It would also explain the correspondence between the 12-steps and dealing with sin.