I really appreciated Kent J. Dunnington’s book, Addiction and Virtue. Here are a few quotes that I found especially helpful:
“Because recovery as conceived by A.A. is a technology of habit reformation, it demands vigilant attention to both the external and internal dimensions of sober action” (79).
“Addiction is a complex habit” (88).
“The scope of recovery is therefore radically extended within a Christian view of addiction. Indeed ‘recovery’ does not sufficiently name the Christian hope in the face of addiction. Instead the Christian hopes for ‘discovery’ and ‘new creation’—not a return to some maintainable equilibrium between who we are and what we want but rather a transformation of the self that brings who we are and what we want… into perfect coordination and harmony” (183).
“In claiming the identity of ‘addict’ or ‘alcoholic,’ we deny that addiction is a habit and assert instead that it is an entity” ( 184).
“Worship is… a totalizing activity; it demands that everything in a person’s life be put in the dock before God, interrogated by one standard and consequently renounced or reordered” (170).
“If the church is to provide a genuine alternative to addicted persons seeking recovery, it must provide daily, rather than once-weekly opportunities for communal worship, testimony and prayer, and it must challenge its parishioners to treat the church as their primary social community” (191).
“The wisdom of the twelve-step program lies in the recognition that the habit of addiction can only be supplanted through the development of another habit that is as pervasive and compelling as the habit of addiction” (165).
“The addicted person, recognizing her own insignificance and her own insufficiency to realize perfect happiness, seeks to be taken up into a consuming experience, longs to be the object rather than the subject of experience, craves to suffer happiness rather than produce it” (158-59).
“The pull of addiction is this pull toward ecstasy, the expression of a deep discontent with the life of ‘just so’ happiness, and the pursuit of an all-consuming love” (159).
“Addictions are addicting just to the extent that they tempt us with the promise of such a perfect happiness, and they enslaving just to the extent that they mimic and give intimations of this perfection” (159).
I appreciate this from Steven Pressfield in The War of Art:
“The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:
1) The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
3) Any diet or health regimen.
4) Any program of spiritual advancement.
5) Any activity who aim is tighter abdominals.
6) Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
7) Education of every kind.
8) Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.
9) The Undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.
10) Any act that entails commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.
11) The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity.
In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.”
[Kuhn, Mike. Fresh Vision for the Muslim World. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2009.]
Kuhn proceeds then to talk about the theological differences between Christianity and Islam. For instance, “the essence of the Christian faith—God became human being in Christ—is diametrically opposed to Islamic faith” (69). There is also a vast difference in the view of what constitutes humanities problem and thus our view of salvation is different. Islam teaches that “individuals are neither dead in sin nor in need of redemption; rather, they are weak, forgetful, and in need of guidance” (78). The heart of the difference between Islam and Christianity is how man is put right with their Creator (81).
In chapters seven through nine, Kuhn reminds us that Jesus’ concern was not with “the geopolitical state of Israel during his earthly ministry. His concern is with his kingdom—the kingdom of heaven” (120). The place of the state of Israel is a subject filled with tension for many Muslims and Christians alike but it is also a very important and practical subject. So, we must seek God and His Scripture for wisdom, we must understand Jesus’ words (130, 171). Kuhn points out that the need of the entire world is to see “the manifestation of the kingdom of Jesus in his people” (158, italics mine), not in an earthly nation. As we have seen, we are to love our neighbors and part of loving someone is understanding them, their history, their perspective, their past hurts.
Chapter ten talks about jihad and explains that not all Muslims understand jihad in the same way, some have a spiritualized understanding of jihad (e.g. 199). So, it is important to understand that Muslims, like Christians, are not all the same. In fact, “the primary concerns of most Muslims are similar to ours—raising their children, providing for their children’s education, saving for that new car or outfit… We must exercise care not to be monofocal in our understanding of Islam” (187). Chapter eleven challenges us to faithfully speak for Jesus and live for His Kingdom and not our own. In part 5, chapters twelve through thirteen, we see steps to incarnation and what it means to live missionally (see esp. 225).
I believe Kuhn could have had more Scriptural argumentation at places but I realize his book was not meant to be exhaustive. However, I agree with most of what he wrote and believe it is truthful. That is, I believe Kuhn made a cogent case in what he said. I also appreciate that he gave a recap of each chapter, it helped give the book clarity.
Stylistically, I appreciate that Kuhn covered many different topics yet did not lose the focus of the book. For example, he introduced incarnation at the beginning (8) and then weaved it through the rest of the book (see e.g. 13, 16, 75, 85. 242). What is needed Kuhn pointed out, though sadly rare, “is an extended hand, a caring smile, someone who is willing to go the extra mile to help someone in need” (259) (cf. Matt. 5:13-16; Jn. 13:35; 1 Cor. 10:33).
I appreciate Kuhn’s reminder that “The kingdom of Jesus as opposed to empire is not concerned in the least about the political boundaries of a country. It is a reality that overlays the political boundaries” (256). We must remember that the Roman Empire came and went, but Jesus’ Kingdom is eternal (254) (cf. Jn. 18:36). Kuhn’s challenge is timely, he says, “if Western Christians are able to bid farewell to our fortress mentality, we will find that our countries have already become exceedingly accessible and potentially fruitful mission fields” (244). Kuhn further points out that if American Christians are overly aligned with their governments’ policies then their missional impact will likely be impacted (241). Instead, as Christians, Jesus should be our King and His policies should hold ultimate sway. The real hope of the Muslim world, and the Western world for that matter, is not democracy, it the diffusion of the good news of Jesus the Christ and the establishment of His reign (218).
As Muslims grow increasingly suspicious and fed up with the violent response of Islamists, they are beginning to look for alternatives. Some are finding their alternative in secularism. Others are turning to materialistic pleasure. Will we as Christ-followers have anything to offer them? (214-15)
So, what is art? That is a difficult question. Let’s look at some examples I’ve gathered. Art is…
…according to a dictionary:
The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance
You cannot define electricity. The same can be said of art. It is a kind of inner current in a human being, or something which needs no definition.
~Marcel Duchamp , French painter and sculptor
…imitation or creation
Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding.
~Marc Chagall, Russian-French artist
…creating beauty or harmony
Filling a space in a beautiful way. That’s what art means to me.
~Georgia O’Keefe, American painter
Art is harmony.
~Georges Seurat, French painter
…an expression of our innate desire to decorate
The intrinsic decorative urge should not be eradicated. It is one of humankinds deep-rooted primordial urges. Primitive people decorated their implements and cult objects with a desire to beautify and enhance… it is a sense emanating from the urge for perfection and creative accomplishment.
~Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Swiss multi-media, applied arts, performance artist, and textile designer
…something that reveals the essential or hidden truth
Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.
~Paul Klee, Swiss painter
…a blessed mistake, a misfiring
Art is like the feathers of a peacock; there is no ultimate reason for it. It is nothing more than a leftover impulse from our distant ancestors. It is a mere signal to potential mates that we have enough time, resources, and leisure to be able to waste time on extravagance.
~This seems to be the Darwinian view (cf. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 253)
To give a body and a perfect form to one’s thought, this—and only this—is to be an artist.
~Jacques-Louis David, French painter
…a source of calm in a chaotic world
What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.
~Henri Matisse, French artist
Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos.
~Saul Bellow, American novelist
…self-expression or autobiography
What is art? Art grows out of grief and joy, but mainly grief. It is born of people’s lives.
~Edvard Munch, Norwegian artist
All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.
~Federico Fellini, Italian film director
…communication of feelings
To evoke in oneself a feeling one has experienced, and…then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling—this is the activity of art.
~Leo Tolstoy, Russian author
Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus.
~David Hockney, British artist
Art begins with resistance — at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.
~André Gide in Poétique
Above all, artists must not be only in art galleries or museums — they must be present in all possible activities. The artist must be the sponsor of thought in whatever endeavor people take on, at every level.
~ Michelangelo Pistoletto in Art’s Responsibility
…according to my favorite definition:
“One individual personality has definite or special talent for expressing, in some medium, what other personalities can hear, see, smell, feel, taste, understand, enjoy, be stimulated by, be involved in, find refreshment in, find satisfaction in, find fulfillment in, experience reality in, be agonized by, be pleased by, enter into, but which they could not produce themselves…
Art in various forms expresses and gives opportunity to others to share in, and respond to, things which would otherwise remain vague, empty yearnings. Art satisfies and fulfills something in the person creating and in those responding…
One person’s expression of art stimulates another person and brings about growth in understanding, sensitivity and appreciation.
~ Edith Schaeffer in The Hidden Art of Homemaking
“When we are at play, or looking at a painting or a stature, or reading a story, the imaginary work must have such an effect on us that it enlarges our own sense of reality.”
~Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
“Students value literature as a means of enlarging their knowledge of the world, because through literature they acquire not so much additional information as additional experience.”
~Marie Rosenblatt, Literature as Exploration
“Literature… serves to deepen and to extend human greatness through the nurture of beauty, understanding, and compassion. In none of these ways, of course, can literature, unless it be the literature of the Christian faith, lead us to the City of God, but it may make our life in the city of man far more a thing of joy and meaning and humanity, and that in itself is no small achievement. Great literature may not be a Jacob’s ladder by which we can climb to heave, but it provides an invaluable staff with which to walk the earth.”
~Roland M. Frye, Perspectives on Man: Literature and the Christian Tradition
“Art is one of the means by which man grabbles with and assimilates reality.”
~Ralph Fox, The Novel and the People
“The primary job that any writer faces is to tell you a story of human experience—I mean by that, universal mutual experience, the anguishes and troubles and gifts of the human heart, which is universal, without regard to race or time or condition.”
~William Faulkner, Faulkner at West Point
“A poem… begins in delight and ends in wisdom [and]… a clarification of life… For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew… There is a glad recognition of the long lost.”
~Robert Frost, “The Figure a Poem Makes”
See Leland Ryken, The Christian Imagination
Our starting points have big consequences, good or bad. Even when buttoning our shirt. If we get the first button wrong we’re going to be misaligned all the way down. And hopefully we catch the problem before we walk out of the house.
It is the same way with sex. It is crucial that we understand from the beginning what God, the designer, intended. We must consider what the Bible, God’s Word, says on the subject.
God’s Good Creation: Designer Sex
What is “Designer Sex”? It is sex the way God intended it to be. It’s not cheap, disrespectful, or damaging. Sex the way God designed it is very good.
“It is tremendously moving to think of God’s original one-flesh companionship. Adam and Eve, before the fall of Eden, had the marvelous capacity of being totally naked, physically and emotionally, with no shame or fear. They reveled in a childlike trust and curiosity—laughing, instinctual honesty, respect and zest for life. It was naked and unashamed with no performance anxiety, inhibitions, pain, or selfish skill deficits. What a relationship and sex life they were able to have as they truly ‘knew’ each other, inside and out!”
God designed man and woman to be together and enjoy each other in harmony with each other and Himself (cf. Gen. 2:18, 24-25). Designer sex, sex the way God intended it to be, is beautiful and God-glorifying.
God lovingly, brilliantly, creatively designed sex. “Doesn’t that tell you a lot about who God really is? Among other things, it tells you that He is ingenious.” God is not trying to keep us from fun when He tells us about the intended design for sex.
Sex, as it was created to be enjoyed, was very good. There was nothing wrong or shameful about it. However, that’s not always the way it is anymore. Something happened.
The Fall: Romance Ruined
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed, and were able to enjoy unhindered wedded bliss. After the Fall, however, all sorts of problems erupted. Adam and Eve hid from God and each other, as they clothed themselves in shame. They had relational disharmony as they blamed each other.
Men and women today still feel the effects of the Fall. The world is now broken. It is not how it was intended to be.
As a result of the Fall people, even political candidates, say such terrible and disrespectful things as: “when you’re a star… you can do anything… Grab ’em by the @*$#!.” God created all people with worth, not as objects to be groped and used.
Pornography is a cogent example of the broken world of sin that we all now face.
“Porn is unbelievably devastating. It holds out an ever-increasing promise of satisfaction while simultaneously, gradually removing the ability to be intimate. Porn makes sex purely physical, and when it becomes purely physical, it loses the glory God has designed it to have. You lose that glory even in marriage when sex becomes purely about the physical act of intercourse.”
This is not “designer sex.” It is sad and leads to all sorts of brokenness.
What we face today represents unique pressures and challenges unprecedented in the history of man. When the author of Ecclesiastes said there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9) he didn’t mean literally. The technology and social media we have today are new but it brings to light the same problems humanity has always had. So, in that sense, there is “nothing new under the sun.” We are fallen. Our hearts need fixed. The external pressures may change but the inner reality of sin remains.
Pornography is not just bad from a biblical perspective it is empirically bad as well. A recent article says, “After 40 years of peer-reviewed research, scholars can say with confidence that porn is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality—for the worse.” The article goes on to say that “Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure to and consumption of porn threaten the social, emotional and physical health of individuals, families and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis rather than a private matter.”
Sexual malpractice and malfunction is a result of the Fall. Pornography zooms in on the effects of the Fall and shows its full despicable form. It is the debasement of what God created to be intimately enjoyed by two covenant partners.
When it comes to sex the Bible is not prudish. It “is fully aware of desire, seduction, rape, polygamy, homosexuality, adultery, and sex after age ninety. And that’s just Genesis.” The Bible does not ignore sex. The Bible does not say it’s not a problem. The Bible doesn’t try to fix the problem by saying, “All desire is demonic.”
Yet, as we will see the Bible does instruct us when it comes to sex. Partly because the author of the Bible, ultimately God, knows that “Sexuality is… a powerful force in our lives, with tremendous potential for intimate bonding or harmful behaviors.”
Desires are not innately demonic but they are dangerous. “Ask Tiger Woods. Ask Bill Clinton. Ask Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Ted Haggard.” Ask the first two pastors I had as a kid.
A healthy view of sex understands that it is not bad. Indeed, God created sex as good and it is good when enjoyed as God, the Creator, intended. However, we live in a fallen world and sex is often not carried out the way that God designed and thus leads to innumerable problems.
We need to understand how God, the Grand Designer, intended sex to function.
 We live in a very sexualized age. I know in one sense that there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). I know there are pornographic Egyptian hieroglyphics that have been discovered and that there are old Roman bathhouses with pornographic morals on the walls. Yet, never before has porn been so accessible. It’s not just found under your uncle’s bed or in the attic it’s constantly in your hand, just a click away. Here’s some statistics: 90% of children between the ages of eight and sixteen have viewed pornography. The average age of exposure to internet pornography is eleven. The largest consumer of internet pornography is boys ages 12 to 17 (Greg Gibson, Date Different, 80).
The porn industry is one of the biggest industries and has the largest presence online. In fact, porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.
Internet pornography is also very potent. I’ve read that it’s as addictive or more addictive as heroin or cocaine. Social media very often, even if it’s not officially labeled pornographic, is teaching and influencing how we think about sex and act out sexually.
 Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 90-91. He goes on to say, “and you certainly forfeit this glory when you engage in sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is deliberate disobedience against God’s commands, which are for your good and therefore it is a deliberate forfeiture of your spiritual well-being, as well as your sexual well-being.”
 For example, Dr. Kevin Leman says, “If you are having sex before marriage, you are ultimately threatening your own happiness and marital satisfaction. The research couldn’t be clearer” (Kevin Leman, Sheet Music, 17-18).
 Actually the word porn is from the Greek word porneía (πορνεία), which is often translated sexual immorality.
 Gail Dines, “Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis” in The Washington Post.
 See Ibid.
 Douglas E. Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 4.
 O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 33.”Eros alone is not evil, but eros outside of God’s ethics is” (Ibid.).
My book Gospel-Centered War: Finding Freedom from Enslaving Sin just got released! Here are a few of the things people are saying about it.
“As the title of this book makes clear, a gospel-centered approach is, in the long run, the only effective way to combat sin and addiction. Any resource, like this one by Paul O’Brien, which helps us fight our sinful compulsions by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one I recommend.”
—Dr. Donald S. Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Gospel-Centered War is for those who struggle with life-dominating sin and for those who counsel them. Instead of simply addressing behavior modification, Paul O’Brien gets to the heart of the matter. This book addresses the issues that provide freedom from destructive, self-defeating behaviors by helping the reader understand how God can change their heart and passions. Read it, devour it, and then be changed from the inside out.”
—Pastor Mike Wilson, Lincoln Heights Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ohio
“Paul is a genuine man of faith who has dedicated his life to Jesus and his calling. As a former heroin addict who was mentored by Paul, I had the privilege to witness his passion for Christ and his desire to help people through God’s word. This book shows that same passion.”
—Ricky Upton, Louisville, KY