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Recovering Through Fully Biblical Recovery

by Kathy McReynolds and Boyd Luter

from the Viewpoint column of the Christian Research Journal, Spring 1993, page 54. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

The CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL should be commended for publishing Ron Rhodes's "Recovering from the Recovery Movement" (Summer 1992). It is encouraging to realize that others are evaluating this minimally defined "movement" from a rigorous biblical perspective, both appreciating its valid contributions and calling needed attention to the fallacies and unbiblical extremes of some of its leaders.

Rhodes is correct in calling into question the loose usage of the concepts of "addiction" and "disease" by many in the recovery movement. While it should be recognized that compulsive tendencies and behavior are a rampant problem, such instances frequently fall short of full-blown physical-psychological addiction. Also, while disease of various types often prove to be major consequences of dysfunctional behavior -- and are thus a crucial focus of the needed treatment in such cases -- the effect must not be confused with the cause.

There is also a subtle, but nevertheless dangerous, deemphasizing of sin in some quarters of the recovery movement. Can it be that the eloquent plea to the counseling community sounded less than twenty years ago in Karl Menninger's Whatever Became of Sin? has been so easily forgotten?

It is also fair to call attention to the corresponding redefinition of sanctification more and more in terms of humanistic "self-worth." Certainly, a biblical understanding of self-esteem in the light of proper "God-esteem" (i.e., who we are, because of Who He is) is vitally important. Again, it has been just over a decade since there was an evangelical consensus that Robert Schuller was out of bounds theologically in making similar assertions in Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (assertions he later minimized in a Christianity Today interview). Have some evangelical recovery gurus, knowingly or unknowingly, enlisted in the ranks of Schuller's unorthodox "reformers"?

Further, Rhodes is largely justified in his concern that viewing one's past behavior -- or that of past generations in one's family -- as requiring certain later behavioral patterns is fatalistic, undermining individual responsibility. Without alleviating personal responsibility, however, it is crucial to acknowledge the profound affect past experiences can have on the present. To downplay this is to bypass a bedrock scriptural principle: sin is "intergenerational" -- that is, the sins of the fathers are passed down to their children (Deut. 5:9). This is why the Israelites were commanded not only to obey the Law, but also to teach it to their children (6:7-9). In this way, the Israelites would "pass down" to their posterity the right ways of the Lord so it might go well with them.

If the children were not taught the ways of the Lord, however, they were being "instructed" in some other way. And this "other" behavior that was passed on had devastating repercussions. This is not to say that they were "locked in" to such behavior, but that the propensity to repeat such patterns is extremely strong. With the Lord's intervention, however, future generations could break those patterns and learn to walk in the truth.

Finally, there is some validity in Rhodes's charge that various support groups are taking the place of church participation among many Christians in recovery. We would also suggest that a sizable number of evangelical churches are dysfunctional "spiritual families," or are contexts in which it is uncomfortable to admit one has problems and is not continually "victorious." Still, abandoning the local church -- the visible expression of the centerpiece of God's plan until Christ comes again (Matt. 16:18) -- is biblically unbalanced and shortsighted.

The church is Christ's body and it should provide a safe haven for hurting believers. But it has often failed to be that kind of refuge. The church must therefore "own" its part in contributing to the success of the recovery movement. The well-meaning, but often superficial, answers offered to distraught believers by some church leaders has driven many into the more sensitive, accepting atmosphere of recovery groups.

God has equipped the church to deal with Christians who are struggling with recovery issues and such "equipment" goes beyond mere cognitive (i.e., "head-knowledge") solutions. True biblical recovery is based on truth which touches the thinking, feeling, and spiritual parts of the human personality through God's Word and His Spirit.

What's at the root of these concerns? At the risk of oversimplification, our considered answer is: evangelical psychologists and counselors on the one hand, and evangelical theologians on the other. Psychological professionals, to their credit, usually attempt to integrate Scripture and recovery. However, their approach generally gives psychological input the upper hand in the equation. Nor do theologians have a valid basis for complaint, since almost none have attempted any type of integration on the subject of recovery from the authoritative biblical side of the aisle. In other words, the counselors really have no one to "hold their feet to the fire" theologically, yet evangelical theologians are "fiddling while Rome burns."

About the Author

Kathy McReynolds is an adjunct teacher and Dr. Boyd Luter is an associate professor of Bible at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. Luter was an associate editor and McReynolds a contributor to the Life Recovery Bible (Tyndale House Publishers, 1992).

The opinions expressed in Viewpoint do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher and editors of the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL.

End of document, CRJ0151A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"Recovering through Fully Biblical Recovery"
release A, August 31, 1994
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.)

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

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