This post is part of a series of book reviews that I have been posting on this blog. Recently I took a Biblical Counseling course at Toronto Baptist Seminary. The course requires me to read through several biblical counseling books and write a “One Main Thing Paper” in response. A “One Main Thing Paper” is a two-page reflection that identifies the author’s argument and key concepts as well as draws out and develops the one main thing that I learned from the book and can apply to my ministry. I am posting each book review in case you are interested in reading any of these books.
Addictions – A Banquet in the Grave by Edward T. Welch
Human beings are worshipers. We have been created with hearts that have been designed for worship. The divine expectation and hope is that we will worship the one true God, but when we fail to do so, our hearts inevitably find something else to worship. This leads to idolatry and slavery to sin which in turn can lead to addiction. As Ed Welch argues in his book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, “Addictions are ultimately a disorder of worship: we worship our desires over God. We desire the things of earth more than the One who rules it.” His book elevates the sufficiency of Scripture in speaking to addictions. “Since all Scripture addresses our fundamental disorder of worship, all Scripture is rich with application for the addict.”
His book is divided into two parts. The first part is titled “Thinking Theologically” and it helps the reader see addictions through the lens of a Christian worldview. Welch offers this definition of addiction, “Addiction is the bondage to the rule of a substance, activity, or state of mind, which then becomes the center of life, defending itself from the truth so that even bad consequences don’t bring repentance, and leading to further estrangement from God.” The Bible characterizes addition as sin, not as a disease. Welch argues, “[Sin] is something we do rather than catch, we confess it rather than treat it, the disease is in our hearts rather than our bodies, and only the forgiveness and cleansing found in the blood of the Great Physician is sufficient to bring thorough healing.” Welch equates addiction with idolatry. The addict chooses to go outside the boundaries of the kingdom of God and seek out blessing in the land of idols, much like the Israelites often did in the Old Testament. Welch explains, “Drugs and sex are the modern golden calves erected by addicts to find meaning, power, or pleasure apart from God.” He also discusses other themes that offer insight into addiction such as adultery, slavery, and foolishness. In chapter 4, Welch discusses the following stages of addiction: friendship, infatuation, love and betrayal, and worship.
The second part of his book is titled “Essential Theological Themes.” This section of the book is devoted to finding hope and healing for the addict in the pages of Scripture and in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This section is both theological and practical. Welch gives wise counsel and biblical insight in how to confront with truth and minister God’s grace to addicts. This takes a lot of time, effort, and patience. In all of this, “Your purpose is to lead them away from slavery to their addictive desires to freedom as they worship and obey the Lord of Lords.” The final answer to everything, including addiction is “the holiness of God demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Christ.”
Although there were many helpful takeaways gleaned from this book, the one main takeaway for me is how to properly think about addictions from a Christian worldview. Scripture has far more to offer the addict than a few specific texts on drunkenness (e.g. Ephesians 5:18). When we rightly understand addiction as idolatry, suddenly there is a whole myriad of texts that can offer warnings and wisdom to the addict. When we rightly understand addiction as idolatry, the final solution is not cutting oneself off from the substance they abuse and never returning to it, but rather it is learning to find a greater satisfaction in the God they must worship.
 Edward T. Welch, Additions: A Banquet in the Grave (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001), 251.
 Ibid., xvi.
 Ibid., 35.
 Ibid., 61.
 Ibid., 47.
 Ibid., 53.
 Ibid., 136.
 Ibid., 150.