I need some advice

I’m a recovering alcoholic and I used to attend a Christian themed recovery program called Celebrate Recovery. I started in mid 2016 and I met many friends along the way and had great success with recovering from my alcoholism. Everybody was supportive and very kind to me there. What made that all crumble was that I mentioned to one of the head people there that I’m interested in science and she gave me a book by Hugh Ross called Why The Universe Is The Way That It Is and I began reading it in my men’s group before it was getting started. I was just reading it and minding my own business. The head guy saw I was reading a book by Hugh Ross and he started ranting about how Hugh Ross is leading people away from Christ. He used the infamous *Were you there? *argument and started saying how we have to go with a plain reading of the creation account. He started asking me if I believe in the resurrection because I believe in an old Earth and I never even said anything about evolution. Even worse is that everybody else in the men’s group was saying to me that it’s either I have authority in the Bible or not. That made me so angry that I just got up and left and I refused to return every since then. I had an accidental relapse recently because when I went to dinner with my family, the waiter was squirting a drink in peoples mouths and since he didn’t ask for my ID, I thought it was just juice. It wasn’t until I tasted it was when I figured out what it really was. I really feel like I screwed up because even though it wasn’t intentional, I still drank alcohol. I don’t know what to do because I refuse to go back to Celebrate Recovery.

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If you have managed to change your lifestyle to the point that you no longer choose alcohol, you are maintaining your sobriety. I would count what happened to you with the waiter as about the equivalent of accidentally picking the real wine instead of grape juice at communion (some churches have both) or taking Nyquil. That’s not really messing up and having a drink. Give yourself some grace.

I’m confused about your story. If it was your men’s group leader who was the big jerk, not the Celebrate Recovery group leader, why can’t you go back to Celebrate Recovery? Or is the men’s group a subset of the larger Celebrate Recovery group? In any case, lots of churches have Celebrate Recovery groups, so if you benefit from the program and the accountability, find one at a less fundamentalist church. My church has one and no one would ever get yelled at for reading a Hugh Ross book. It’s not like the program itself requires the leaders to be young earth literalists.

I understand why you felt like you were attacked and don’t want to go back, but if those particular people aren’t representative of the whole group and you miss the overall community there, another thing you could do is ask to speak with the leader who gave you the book in the first place and tell her what happened and how it made you want to avoid the group. Those members of your small group should really be held accountable for their negative way of interacting with other group members. Celebrate Recovery is supposed to be a place people can be vulnerable and authentic and that’s not going to happen if you get taken to task for reading the wrong books. Maybe if they are confronted, they will recognize they were out of line, and there would be a chance to reconcile with them and avoid the topic in the future. In any case, even if you never go back to a meeting, if I were the leader of a program, and some of the participants behaved the way you described, I would want to know about it so I could address it and make it clear that nothing like that should happen again.

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Find a new place, move on. They shouldn’t mix anything else with treatment. You were there to find help with a problem, not critiques of what you read.

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Best wishes. That is a difficult situation! It may help me in a situation I’m in right now. I am leading a Sunday School with a short series on Bonhoeffer, and someone misconstrued the message of standing for one’s principles to mean not to question the YEC position. He went into a long discussion today about how Christian evolutionists look to the wrong authority, and water down the Bible. Now, I respect this man, and would be in his shoes back in college; so I have been thinking about how to interact with him. Just like with your colleagues, it sounds like they are afraid of something. I’m not quite sure what to do. At this point, I think I will just let him talk if he brings it up again, and maybe ask him some questions to see why he is concerned. If you find some good solutions, let me know. Probably there are as many solutions are there are people to interact with. However, it’s good to learn from others’ experiences.
Thanks for this discussion.

If overall you did not enjoy the atmosphere because of those foolish uneducated men then I would find another place. You did not mess up and drink. You did not choose to drink.

I do hope that you continue to pursue science, God, and being sober. I hope you can overcome whatever is driving you towards wanting to get drunk. There are probably other places if you don’t it.

I will also say this. This issue of being judged as a heretic because of looking at 11 chapters in the bible through scientific lens probably won’t go away. It still happens. It will probably happen our whole lives. Don’t let thst drive you away from where you want to.

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Difficult situation , Randy. Our church has a group going to see the ark, and a couple in our Sunday school is wanting to go. Like you, I stand by in silence. My concern is, does that silence place those like this poster at risk? To make a big deal about it would be risking division and place folks at risk also in various ways, particularly staff.
Eric, lots of good advice given. AA or another CR group would be good. No matter where you go, you are going to run into folks who do inappropriate things. Probably the next group you join will have someone like that also. Perhaps the issue will be politics, or sexuality, or sports, but ultimately we have to look past some things and extend grace, even to jerks.

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Best wishes to you, @Eric_Vierthaler92! I have a family member who has been successful with recovery through an outpatient 12 step program and external AA/NA meetings. I think they might also serve you well/in a similar way. But I agree with others that we will probably always encounter those people in our Christian midsts and navigating that can be difficult!

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The person who was being a jerk was the guy running the men’s alcohol group that day and along with everybody else in the group by saying that it’s either I take the Bible as my authority or not. It wasn’t Celebrate Recovery as a whole, just a few particular people in CR.

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I don’t wanna go back to Celebrate Recovery because of that negative experience with being chastised just for reading a Hugh Ross book. It’s just like how if somebody were to have a bad experience at a restaurant, they won’t wanna go back to that either because it left a bad taste in their mouth. In the case of a restaurant, both figuratively and literally. It’s easier for people to remember the bad than it is the good.

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If you pick a different “restaurant,” that’s fine. But I still think you should let the “manager” know about your experience so they can try to ensure it doesn’t happen to other people.

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Good analogy, Eric. It is hard to recover from those things. I got sick eating watermelon as a kid, and it took 40 years to semi- enjoy it again. Best wishes in your journey, and know we like Hugh Ross here, even if we don’t agree with everything he says!

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Hi Eric.

First of all, I want to say thank you for taking the time to post. I have a very close family member who has struggled with alcohol and substance abuse for almost 20 years. It is still very hard for her to open up and talk about it. Given the experiences you had at the Celebrate Recovery group, it can’t have been easy to post about it here. Thank you for trusting us.

Second, although I recognise that I am not responsible for their actions, I would like to apologise on the groups behalf. Not only is it a completely inappropriate time for them to take you to town for reading a book, but a completely inappropriate way of discussing it with you. FWIW, often these overtly emotional responses are an irrational response to something feared. Were we to dig under the surface, we might well find that these gents have never read or heard anything Hugh Ross has to say for themselves. Rather they’ve read/heard and repeated what others have read and said about him. In groups, this can trigger an almost hysterical group think where everyone blurts out similar fear-induced slogans. Almost like a really incompetent immune response to a perceived threat of infection. I think this may well be the case with this CR group. After all the rational response when someone sees someone else reading something they consider ‘taboo’ is to say 'huh, interesting choice of book. What made you decide to read that one?" Rather than, you know, “burn the witch!” or words to that effect. :man_facepalming:

Finally, as others have encouraged you, may I encourage you not to see this recent accident like a relapse but rather for what is genuinely appears to be: an accident. Yes be on guard, you may find those old temptations resurface or feel stronger as a result. However, you may well find that those temptations are more compelling if you crush yourself under a self-imposed weight of guilt than simply chalking it up to bad luck and resolve to move forward in a positive way. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to do just that.

I do hope that regardless of your experience with this men’s group, that they at some point shared with you the guilt vanquishing hope of Christianity. Namely that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

May the Lord bless your recovery! Liam

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The old fundamentalist false dichotomy … either X or Y but nothing else can possibly exist.

I’m not the best person to respond to your request for guidance because I get more than a little sarcastic and argumentative with these types. It charges my batteries actually … maybe I’m weird.

Since someone in leadership with Celebrate Recovery gave you the book, you might mention to them your experience with the other guy in leadership.

You have to do what’s right for your situation and that’s rarely a black and white proposition. If a weekly meeting is important to your recovery, perhaps there is a different Celebrate Recovery group nearby or maybe an alternative program that isn’t so focused on whether you believe what ONE person in the group decided is a literal reading of the Bible? Maybe YOU could start your own Celebrate Recovery group that’s welcoming of people with different points of view regarding Genesis?

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Eric,
If I understand the situation there are two groups involved. There is your men’s group which I presume is part of your church. Then there is Celebrate Recover which is not part of your church. The leader of Celebrate Recovery gave you Hugh Ross’s book and the men in your men’s group jumped on you for reading such material. Leaving the men’s group would affect your relationship in the church so you left Celebrate Recovery. Tough situation if I understand.

I admire Hugh Ross and his ministry was helpful to me when I was struggling with much of the young earth distortions. He is clearly a believer and God is using him. Fortunately we don’t have to be right about the age of the earth to have a good relationship with God in Christ. God even uses Ken Ham to lead people to faith. There is much wrong in the young earth camp, not the least of which is the lack of charity which they show toward those who disagree on this point. For them it is a fundamental of the faith.

I do not know all the connections you have with your church and what it would mean to leave, but I would be praying for guidance about looking for another church which is more charitable to the truth from God through creation. And I would probably not give up Celebrate Recovery.

Do you know where your church leadership (pastor/elders) stand on the issue of the age of the earth? Is this just your men’s group? Sometimes these attitudes start at the top and sometimes the leaders are more open than the members.

Praying for wisdom,
John

God bless you, friend.

I wonder if he can substantiate that claim with evidence?

Anyway, it is my personal opinion that the clash between science and YEC is doing more harm to the Christian faith than OEC or EC. I know more than one person who has left the Christian faith because he (and in one case, she) could not reconcile science with the Bible. They were tricked by the false dichotomy paraded about by staunch materialists and dogmatic YECs alike.

This is such a silly argument. No. None of us were. But we have evidence that points to the earth being ancient and to evolutionary theory being true.

I’m sorry you had that experience. You don’t have to be YEC to hold to the inspiration and even inerrancy of Scripture (I hold to both, personally), but YECs will often paint it that way.

I hope that you become reconciled with them. I will pray for that. I understand that you are probably still hurting from this, but it might be good to return and try to talk things out.

What does Jesus say? If you look at His teachings, He is much more concerned with the intentions of the heart than with the outward action. Not that He doesn’t teach about outward action, but the thrust of His teaching is that sinful action begins with a sinful thought/desire, found within, not without. Consider, for example, Mark 7:1-23.

This was an accident. The Lord knows this, full well. More importantly, He knows your heart. It might help you to know that drinking alcohol in and of itself is not a sin, but if something is a temptation for you, then you should avoid it. Consider Romans 14. Don’t torture yourself because you had an accidental drink–you didn’t sin by the act of consumption.

Now, an important question: when you say relapse, is this because of that drink only, or have you started drinking again?

As I said, it might help you to become reconciled with them. Pray about this. I would give it another go. But if you are met with the same level of disdain, it’s time to move on and find another group.

Do you attend church? If so, what sorts of discipleship do they do? If not, I would recommend that you find a church that edifies and encourages you but also keeps you accountable. This can be a real challenge. I shall pray for you to find a good church home, if you don’t have one already.

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Eric, I tend to divide the issues you are facing into three distinct areas. The first is dealing with the issue of alcohol in your life. The second is finding the right way to read the Bible. The third is the more complex issue of what happens when the two somehow become related.

I don’t know the background to your problem with alcohol, so please forgive me if I make the wrong assumptions. What problem are you trying to solve when you turn to alcohol? Is it your anxiety level or feelings of depression? Some bad experiences in life that you are trying to forget? A sense of guilt or feelings of being a worthless human being? There are better ways of dealing with such things and if you don’t take the better route, alcohol will always hover just above the horizon of your vision.

When it comes to reading the Bible, there are more educated ways than that displayed by your group leader, and there are insights that can be provided by even a modest education. For example, when I was in primary school our teacher introduced us to the notion of metaphor by having us read a poem called, The Highwayman . “The Moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas”. (I’m quoting from memory.) Did the author of that poem really think the Moon was a wooden ship? Of course not! Taking everything as being literally true reveals a lack of exposure to the study of language and literature, whether it be English, or the Biblical languages and literature. The Creation stories in Genesis show an affinity with Creation stories from other ancient Mesopotamian civilisations. In fact, some of those other Mesopotamian stories make an appearance in other parts of the Old Testament. It is easily possible to read the Creation stories in Genesis by saying to oneself, “I don’t know whether this is how it actually happened, but I know that it is true”. Truth here is understood to be found in the Creation stories at a deeper level than the literal one. And yet one can read the resurrection stories as literally true on the basis of St Paul’s treatment of them in 1 Corinthians 15.

The third issue is that of the relationship between therapy for alcohol abuse and aspects of the Christian Faith. You have obviously suffered from an example of how not to do it - the idea that one has to assent to Fundamentalist assertions for there to be a connection. There is a connection, but it is not so much about “believing that” as “believing in”. “Believing in” is a matter of “engagement with” and “participation in”. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul declares that the resurrection of Christ was a literal fact, but he has been running with the theme of resurrection all the way through his letter. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Paul describes the call of Christians as involving a raising up from weakness. It stands out more in the original Greek, but this description reaches its climax when Paul describes God raising us up from “the things that are not” (verse 28). In other words, salvation is a matter of creation from nothing, or creation ex nihilo as the theologians would say. But salvation is more than some kind of inner, spiritual thing. It involves healing of body, mind and spirit. When John the Baptist started to worry about Jesus being the Christ, Jesus reminded him of the healings Jesus had performed. (Matthew 11:2-6) As you work through therapies, it is easy to become discouraged; and a merely intellectual belief may not seem to hold much power. I find that one way to open the whole of my being to this resurrection power is through music. I love to listen to some of the many cover versions of the song, “You raise me up”. That prepares me for a prayer in which I invite God to do just that.

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Eric…I am glad to hear you are a recovering alcoholic. The road to wholeness is filled with potholes, which is why we need good support…“We” being you in this case, but I belong to a diet group so I know the importance of support and accountability — from another angle… As for reading Hugh Ross — it is all good. I have not read him specifically, but you will learn something from him — whether or not you accept all or part of him. SORRY, however, about the reaction of the leader of Celebrate Recovery. There ARE, as anyone can tell you (I presume), essentials and nonessentials in terms of Christian faith. Many of us (or maybe all of us at one time or another) have trouble with making the distinctions on that. I had a coworker (10 years ago) approach me and ask “where do asteroids come from?” When I said “they are left over from the Big Bang,” she literally began to shake violently and screamed at the top of her lungs “It is GOD’S WORD”…She did this for several days whenever she saw me —just the sight of me set her off. It was later that I learned she had just visited a young-earth exhibit and become convinced of the truth of that…She never apologized — and that may be your experience with the individual and the group you have been dealing with. The question “Were you there?” actually goes both ways—though some have never considered that,
Have you considered AA? Many churches allow them to meet in their churches these days. You need to find a supportive place., Unfortunately it sounds like this group is not that place for you.

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The “plain reading of the creation account?”

There are two creation accounts, with different orders and methods of creation.

The first creation account is in Genesis.1.1-2.4a and has an order of creation of plants, animals, man and woman. The method of creation is by decree.

The second creation account starts in Genesis 2.4b and has an order of creation man, plants, animals, and woman. The method of creation is God working with His hands.

The Bible itself tells us the early chapters of Genesis are not literal history.

Stay away from the alcohol. It is not what is best for you!

Cobra----the definition of “plain reading” is, generally, “the view that you hold” as opposed to the other guy’s. Anything that is different or opposed to your view is, well, not so plain. We all have this problem from time to time…

And you are right…alcohol is no good…a former neighbor of mine was 58 with the body of a guy in his mid 70s after a lifetime of alcohol. Was horrified – then outraged — when people started telling him he had a problem.

Eric, I’d strongly agree with Bluebird on the positive role of a supportive group around you, but not among Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists sometimes give the impression that they have sole rights over the term “Evangelicals”, but “Evangelicals” cover a much broader group of Christians.

There is strong Biblical support for the idea of a supportive group of friends. Both Mark (2:4) and Luke (5:19) recount the story of a paralyzed man who was carried on his mat to Jesus. Unable to get close to Jesus, they dig a hole through the roof and let the man down on his mat right in front of Jesus. The man has his sins forgiven and his paralysis healed. What is important are the words of Jesus to the man’s friends. According to the narrative, Jesus acts in response to their faith. Note the plural. The man’s friends not only carried him on his mat, they carried him on their faith. There may be times of despair when you find it impossible to have faith because that is an outcome of your affliction. The faith of friends can carry you through. So that is the kind of supportive group you should look for.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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