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Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice (Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology) Paperback – August 26, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"This would be a good read for those of you who want to explore more deeply the true nature of addiction, are unhappy with the disease or choice models as explanations, and, in the face of the limiations of the recovery movement, want to be encouraged by the veritable contributions of Christianity." (Linda S. Parker, Dharma Deepika, July-December 2012)

"Addiction and Virtue sets the stage for a new scene in the church, where she is no longer dulled and distracted by a secular vision of happiness, but is a vibrant, attractive, and welcoming community of 'repentant sinners.'" (Paul Warhurst, Themelios 37.1)

"Dunnington's work neither demonizes the addicted person nor excuses the abuse of alcohol and drugs. But it points the way toward compassion for the individual, transformation of the culture (including the church), and recovery through the fullness of the Christian gospel." (Amy Julia Becker, Christianity Today, September 2011)

"An intelligent, informed and well-integrated treatment of virtue and addiction that doesn't fall into theological, philosophical or scientific dogma. Dunnington provides a framework that is invaluable for clinicians and researchers in the area of addiction, and for those who strive to live the virtuous life." (William M. Struthers, associate professor of psychology, Wheaton College, and author of Wired for Intimacy)

"Kent Dunnington offers a compelling account of addiction as interpreted through the lens of virtue. A strong theological and philosophical foundation helps the reader to see how the good news of Jesus Christ offers a powerful alternative to the habit of addiction. While some within the addiction treatment community will find Dunnington's arguments controversial, others will experience them as a breath of fresh air. Either way, Addiction and Virtue is a worthwhile read!" (Virginia T. Holeman, professor of counseling, Asbury Theological Seminary)

"In Addiction and Virtue Kent Dunnington uses Aristotle, Thomas and the philosophically clarified concept of habit to illuminate addiction. The addicts in our midst emerge as 'contemporary prophets' who, if we can but find the ears to hear them, call society as a whole to profound change and the Christian church in particular to renewal. This valuable book points the way, if we are ever to recover from all our junkie-like 'habits' of personal behavior and social interaction, to turn them into truly sustaining habitats for flourishing human life." (Francis F. Seeburger, professor of philosophy, University of Denver)

"Addiction and Virtue is one of only a few books which use philosophy to unpack the false dilemma limiting addiction to either disease or willful choice. What's more, Dunnington does this from a Christian theological perspective." (Linda Mercadante, author, Victims & Sinners, and professor, The Methodist Theological School in Ohio)

"Considerations of addiction as disease are helpful but inadequate. Kent Dunnington shows us that addiction is a habit, more akin to idolatry or wrongful worship. In doing so he deepens our notions of addiction, but also enriches our understandings of sin and redemption. I can't think of a more timely subject, or a more exemplary way to do theological ethics." (Sam Wells, dean of the chapel, Duke University)

"Drawing on Aristotle's and Aquinas's accounts of habit, Kent Dunnington has given us an analysis of addiction we have desperately needed. Few are able to combine philosophical analysis with theological insight, but Dunnington has done it in a manner that helps us better understand the nature of addiction and why it is so prevalent in our time. This is a book that needs to be read, not only by those who work in the fields of addictive behaviors but also by philosophers, theologians and pastors. I suspect in a short amount of time, this book will be viewed as something of a classic in the field." (Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School)

About the Author

Kent Dunnington is assistant professor of philosophy, Greenville College. He holds the Ph.D. in philosophy from Texas A&M, and an M.T.S. in theology from Duke University.


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Product Details

  • Series: Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology
  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (August 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830839011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830839018
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michael Leake on August 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
"I can't stop"

The young man in my office was broken by his continuing lapses into the darkness of pornography. He truly wanted to stop, at least it seemed. He hated pornography. But he kept going through seasons of "feast" and famine. Sometimes he could quit for months at a time. At other points he was engaging in sexual deviance multiple times per day.

Did he have a disease? Yes, it is quite true that pornography probably had changed his brain structure. So there really is legitimacy to his saying, "I can't stop". But isn't the gospel more powerful than brain structure? And isn't it a little simplistic to say that just because his brain structure has changed that he now can't stop? If his brain structure was able to change in a deviant form isn't it possible to "rewire" it again?

Disease is too simplistic of an explanation.

So it's all his choice then, right? This young man must really not want to change or else he would just make the choice to stop. If that is the case then why is he in my office? He obviously wants to stop but he doesn't know how. As he talks to me (and this is the case with a myriad of "addicts") he feels utterly helpless to this problem. Furthermore, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" doesn't seem to be the Bible's method of Christian growth. (But then again, neither does a helpless "let go and let God".)

Choice is too simplistic of an explanation.

Then what is it? If disease is too simplistic and choice is too simplistic, how do we come to understand the nature and experience of addiction? This is the question that Kent Dunnington sets out to answer in his work Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Fr. Charles Erlandson on September 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Addiction and Virtue" is a book lover's dream. It's a book with a big and important idea, presented in an original thesis, and compellingly argued.

What Kent Dunnington has done is to provide us with an extremely important book about the nature and meaning of addiction. In recent decades, the concept of addiction has grown to be a dominant way of understanding what it means to be human. Almost all of us have known someone close to us who is facing some kind of addiction. Dunnington goes beyond the traditional debate between whether addiction is a choice or a disease. His stunningly effective and useful answer is that addiction is formed by a much neglected human factor - and that is "habit."

Standing on the shoulders of the twin giants of Aristotle and Aquinas, Dunnington methodically explains why the concept of habit explains the characteristics of addiction more adequately than either choice or disease. How can it be, for example, that at one and the same time the addict loathes his habit, wants to change it, and believes he can, and yet also feels completely powerless to change? Habit explains this paradox beautifully because habits are created by the choices we make, but they become habitual and so much a part of us they seem hardwired into us like a disease.

Dunnington's thesis goes even further, for he offers a cogent explanation for why addiction has become so prevalent in modern culture in particular. It's because in modernity we have cut ourselves off from any common consensus of meaning or "telos." Addictions offer a totalizing meaning for the addict's life in a life that too often is characterized by arbitrariness, boredom, and loneliness. More than this, addictions become almost religious in nature, complete with worship and ritual.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Joel L. Watts VINE VOICE on January 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
A book which looks at addiction theologically? Isn't addiction just sin? Can't we look at the alcoholic as a moral failure? Should we change these views?

That's the author's purpose, as outlined succinctly in his preface. Why? Because from the start, he argues that the Church may in fact be complicit "in the production of a culture of addiction (p10)." So, then, why shouldn't the Church talk about it? He suggests that "addiction cannot be adequately appraised until addiction is understood as a misguided enactment of our quest for right relationship with God (p11)." With the discussion of habits and the apartness from God, one should already begin to recognize the use of Aristotle and Aquinas in Dunnington's work, something he notes as possibly off putting to some readers. It shouldn't be, considering the foundation which they have given Christian theology and reasoning. His thesis is simple: (T)here is something philosophically and theologically profound about addiction but that standard and entrenched paradigms must be recast or overthrown in order to bring what is at stake into stark relief (p12)." With the course laid out, with a respecification of addiction, we begin the book.

Reason and Action are two things which philosophers struggle to define. It is also something that is worth discussing when speaking about addiction as either a habit or a disease. This first chapter is somewhat technical in the medical and philosophical sense, but worth it as the author is able to poke holes into the disease terminology applied, and as he shows, illogically, to addiction.
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