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Feels Like Redemption: The Pilgrimage To Health and Healing (My Pilgrimage) Paperback – January 14, 2015
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I think it is important to evaluate a work according to its author's purposes, not the reader's. (In fact, as a conservative I would say this is an essential perspective to have!) I came to this work not for theology, but to consider personal testimony of finding healing from porn addiction. On this, the book delivers in spades. Taylor delves into pain and our self-medication of it. He goes deep into talking about who we are as human beings before he even jumps into talking about pornography, which is a huge plus. Too often addiction is treated as a problem that can be solved by tackling it head-on, rather than by understanding who we are as whole people.
Taylor understands the human experience thoroughly; his skills in psychology exceed his skills in theology. He understands pain and the human response to it better than maybe any other person I've read. It was a strange feeling as I read each page and learned new things about myself despite finding little things to disagree with all over the place. I truly think anyone reading this book with an open mind will learn a lot about themselves, regardless of religious persuasion.
One of Taylor's greatest strengths is his consideration of belief. He is sharply critical of the power of belief to actually change behavior, preferring experience. (I am making his point simpler for the sake of brevity; it is a bit more complicated than that.) While I disagree that experience can be a valid test for truth, he is right to be critical of evangelicalism's tendency to emphasize intellectual agreement over personal transformation. Something is not truly believed unless it is experienced. This accords with the biblical portrait of salvation and deliverance from sin, which emphasizes not just confession of the gospel but also tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. True healing from addiction is not in a statement of faith, but in a life lived free.
Of course, the theological content of the book is its greatest weakness. I would think it irresponsible to praise the book's great strengths without giving the appropriate caveats. Much of Taylor's recommendations and explanations flow from skepticism regarding the authority of Scripture. One example that is close to the heart of the book: he is strongly opposed to using the metaphor of "fighting" sin, preferring instead to describe this as a "pilgrimage." Both metaphors, however, are scriptural (consider Isaiah 30:21 for the pilgrimage metaphor, 1 Timothy 6:12 for the fighting metaphor.) Taylor is probably - and quite understandably - reacting to an unbiblical extreme of the "fighting" metaphor which is very common among men in evangelical circles. The existence of that extreme, however, does not warrant outright rejection of the metaphor entirely. Taylor is all about people finding their own paths to healing, but I think he is inconsistent in this when he looks down on one particular metaphor that has, in fact, helped many people find healing (some of whom I personally know.)
Taylor is also very weak in his doctrine of sin, which leaves the book feeling incomplete. While porn addiction is certainly a way that we medicate pain, this is not mutually exclusive with the idea that it is a transgression of Christ's law of love. Any complete Christian view of addiction has to include this dimension. The use of porn affects not just the user. The actors are degraded, whom are made in the image of God. One's future or current spouse is dishonored. The porn industry continues to expand, thus attracting other people who may themselves be addicted and have their lives ruined. The person who uses porn must come to grips with the fact that they have failed to love God and others by their sin. Taylor's view of sin is simply too individualistic, focusing almost exclusively on what sin does to the offender, as opposed to the offended. Of course, this is just one book, and a fairly short one. I am more than willing to stand corrected if he puts out another book that addresses the social dimension of porn!
While I take the same issue with the book as many of the 1-star reviewers do, I don't see why it's necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater. People affected by addiction, pornography in particular, will be moved and helped along their pilgrimage (or their fight!) by this book. Just read with discernment, as you should any book.
The one helpful idea in this book is that behind any addiction is a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. In one of the author's lives it was the death of his father at a young age. I'm trying to explore this area in my life and feel like I'm flying blind. I didn't come across anything useful to help me. Maybe I should go to Alaska and visit the one person in the book that seemed to understand how to move someone towards this experience
To me, this book is talking about something much bigger than addiction... it is talking about spiritual growth and freedom (which, at the end of the day, is the KEY to escaping addiction!). I come from a traditional Christian background, and was looking for something deeper... this book is exactly that. The typical explanations and theology (i.e. Every Man's Battle, other rigid theologies), for me, aren't dynamic, don't challenge me to grow my relationship with God, and have caused me more damage than good... in my experience, those theologies keep you stuck where you are (in your brain), and prevent you from actually growing. Those ways of viewing addiction kept me beating my head against a wall. Anyone else felt like that?
I love that "Feels Like Redemption" offered a completely different angle and solution to my growth and overcoming the things that have held me back... rather than making me feel bad for my actions, this book helped me to mature beyond them. That, for me, has been revolutionary. Highly recommend!