Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of disease and Choice" Book Review


That word is the perfect word to describe today's theological thinking concerning issues such as addiction, disease, mental illness and abuse. Time after time I have read books that force the reader into dichotomies such as "all addiction is a disease" or "all addiction is a choice--you just need to pull yourself up!" However, being on the front line of ministry, I have found that neither option is particularly helpful or effective. Most books oversimplify the issues involved. Sure, the answers they provide are clean, but do they ultimately work and explain what is really happening?

This is exactly why Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice by Kent J. Dunnington is such a vastly important book for today--he avoids oversimplifications. In many ways, I feel that this book could very well be the bridge that leads many practical theologians to new thinking regarding addiction.

Make no mistake about it: Addiction and Virtue is a technical book and the reader will find himself re-reading much of what is written in order to fully comprehend and digest what is really being said. However,  in a mere eight chapters, Kent Dunnington does some major earthshaking business.

After outlining the current dilemma in much writing on addiction in chapter one, the author proceeds to outline his model (using primarily Aristotle and Aquinas as the fountain for his paradigm) in chapters 2-4. Without diving into the nuances of his argument, Dunnington moves past the categories of disease and choice and moves towards the category of "habit." Brilliantly, he outlines how habits work and how they impact all rational and emotional faculties. Chapters 2-4 are by far his most technical chapters, but they are also the meat of the book and should be read carefully.

For me, chapter five was perhaps the most unnerving--in a good way! Dunnington argues how the addictions that many struggle with can be voices of what our culture is struggling with. He argues that America largely struggles with areas of arbitrariness, boredom and loneliness. Dunnngton also issues a call to the church, as the church how it will offer alternatives. In this sense, the addict serves as an "unwitting prophet."

Chapters 6-8 move toward laying a biblical foundation for all that has been stated so far. The author provides very convincing arguments throughout and does a tremendous job of outlining clear directives for the church in light of his entire argument. These chapters were simply fantastic and much practical advice was given. They provided a great end to a groundbreaking book.

In conclusion, if you are a pastor, professor, counselor or just someone who works with people in general, you need to read this book. It is a challenging read but it is a rewarding read and one that will certainly challenge your paradigm. However, it does not just provide theoretical "pie in the sky" philosophy. It provides real world answers to real world problems. As a result, I cannot recommend highly enough Addicition and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice.

*Thanks to IVP Academics for providing a free review copy in an exchange for a fair review of the book. I was not required to post a positive review*

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