The Addiction of Sin: Lesson 5

In this lesson, we examine additional observations offered by Patrick T. McCormick concerning the idea that sin is an addiction to see if these insights reflect biblical values related to specific expressions of sin. (See Patrick T. McCormick, Sin as Addiction [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989]; Gerald G. May, M.D, Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions [New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988].)

A point of difference between McCormick’s perspective and that of May is that McCormick refers to the addictive character (a personality that leads to addiction) in contrast to May’s addicted character (a personality that is changed by addiction). As far as the relationship of sin to the concept of addiction is concerned, this may not be significant, for sin is universal.

“[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NKJV).

As it relates to Romans 3:23, it is important to note the grammatical variation between “have sinned” and “fall short.” By its use of the aorist tense (have sinned), the verse describes the past behavior of its readers. In their past, all people have sinned. But the word translated “fall short” is in the present tense, portraying the action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the completion of the action (Logos Bible Software). In other words, Romans 3:23 asserts universal sinfulness in both the past and present.

The Desire to be God-like

McCormick offers some insights that are not emphasized by May into how sin functions like an addiction. First, there is the desire to be god-like, to live above the rules, and to refuse one’s own limitations. This is seen in the first account of temptation and sin in Scripture: “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5, NKJV).

That there is indeed a kind of “god-likeness”  to sin is seen in God’s assessment of sin’s result: “Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22a, NKJV). Although man becomes “god-like” through sin, he is a false god.

Sin Leads to Loss of Meaning and Direction

Second, sin, like addiction, leads to disintegration. There is a loss of meaning and direction in life. In a national sense, this can be seen in the history of ancient Israel. God warned them of the consequences of disobedience:

“Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods. … And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. In the morning you shall say, “Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see” (Deuteronomy 28:64-67, NKJV).

What was true for national Israel is true for each individual who rejects God.  Since humans were made to know and follow God, those who reject Him are left without a compass in life. The parable of the prodigal son demonstrates the disintegration that occurs in the lives of those who turn away from God. (See Luke 15:11-32.)

Does Sin Lead to Alienation?

Third, alienation — affecting all relationships, including one’s relationship with oneself — is the result of addiction. Although sinners may crave companionship (Proverbs 1:10-14), sin by its nature destroys all relationships:

“But they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives” (Proverbs 1:18, NKJV).

Enduring relationships are nurtured by unconditional love; love is absent where sin prevails. The second of all the commandments is that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). The only alternative to love is alienation.

In Lesson 6, we will continue to examine McCormick’s view of sin as addiction. This will include the way in which addiction leads to death and five advantages to the addiction model.