Book Critique: At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry
27 January 2018
IntroductionI bought this book while attending the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) conference.
This book by Steve Gallagher is not technically on ACBC's "approved reading list", but I felt compelled to critique it after a conversation at their table. A man behind the counter, who I quizzed to see where he stood on the 12 step programs, was very critical and negative of the 12 steps. But when I gently tried to engage him in conversation as to why he had the complaints he listed, he seemed resistant to change, so I disengaged from conversation before it became an argument. I could tell he didn't know much about the 12 step programs.
So given that ACBC did not have a book directly dealing with sexual addiction on their approved reading list (per Dr. Street), and that so many people seem ignorant of what 12 step programs are about, I felt compelled to critique this book. In truth, I was looking towards incorporating anything that worked into a makeshift ministry for sex addicts. However, I admit my own personal bias: I am someone for whom the 12 steps work very well. Given that the man behind the counter said that a lot of their program was built by people who either were against 12 step programs or for whom 12 step programs didn't work, I felt compelled to read their book to see what they have to say.
Keep in mind, I am not in any way doing this out of a position of superiority to Gallagher or anyone else.
EndorsementsI can already tell I'm going to be up against some problems, as even his endorsements bash psychology.
One of this book's endorsements said it is the first book of its kind. I was skeptical, so I immediately checked Sex Addicts Anonymous book (2005) and Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction by Dr. Mark Laaser (1992). To my amazement, yes, this is the first book of its kind (1986). So regardless of what happens from this point on, I at least give the author the credit for being (so far as I know) the first to speak on this subject.
ForewordI found a problem with the author of the foreword, saying "The Word pays no attention to your sin, emotions, or actions...." I think the author may have fallen off the wagon trail while stretching his worship of the Bible past the point of hyperbole. Nonetheless, I think I get what he's trying to say. Similar hyperbole-becoming-falsehood things like "it doesn't make us feel guilty" abound. The Bible does make us feel guilty, and over actions and thoughts that it should make us feel guilty about. With that, I skipped past the foreword.
IntroductionThe author refers to this problem as pornography addiction. That's interesting, and may be why this book isn't on ACBC's reading list. The war of words within the secular and lay counseling communities seems to never end. AACC calls it sexual addiction and lumps everything else in with it. The DSM doesn't contain sexual addiction, but the ICD sort of does ("hypersexuality"), but most of psychology doesn't recognize sexual addiction yet. Ed Welch prefers spiritual bondage or enslavement rather than the word addiction, and most of ACBC that I have experienced loathes the word "addiction" because they believe it gives the addict an excuse, even though psychology and the legal system don't agree. I'm intrigued by Gallagher's choice of words.
The author is right to point out the epidemic of pornography.
However, then the author takes a cheap shot at Steve Arterburn (Every Man's Battle, 2000) saying that "bouncing the eyes" is some sort of fad. I disagree: it's a skill all men should be employing.
If the author is going to say that pornography is such an epidemic (which it is), why not adopt the CIA-like philosophy of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"? Surely if pornography is an epidemic, we should be looking to ally with anyone and everyone who is against it. Indeed, Jesus had the same mindset: Mark 9:38-41 records Jesus saying "whoever is not against you is for you."
Chapter 1First of all, kudos to Gallagher for detailing the ritualistic part of addictive sexual behavior. His findings echo with Dr. Carnes (Out of the Shadows and many others) and Dr. Laaser (Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction and many others) as well as many other psychology textbooks I have read on addiction during my courses at [redacted].
As well, I'm glad Gallagher brought up chat rooms, adult stores, prostitution, exhibitionism, and voyeurism. It's rare, true, but I've read very few things written by Christians on these issues, outside of Dr. Mark Laaser. This is where most Christian books that address only addictions in general (such as Ed Welch, Addiction: A Banquet in the Grave) fall short. This is not necessarily a bad thing: books that address addiction in general are limited in scope from conception. However, given the many and varied behavior patterns that are included in sexual addiction, Gallagher is right to address them all. Kudos.
Gallagher then excellently describes what a sex addict goes through and the traits they develop. Again, kudos. This book is shaping up to be better than maybe I anticipated.
Chapter 2It starts off with a bit of a weak description of the difference between (stages of change) pre-contemplation and action. That's fine: this didn't set out to be a psychology textbook. But I think maybe a more in-depth description of the sources of resistance within the addict might help a bit, maybe to blunt the edge of what might appear to be a judgmental description.
Also, I think it might be too simplistic, going directly for the heart. Again, though, this book isn't meant to be a counseling resource, that I am aware of. It would be fair to bring up why sometimes our environment conspires against us (such as generational sin, where abused children grow into adults who abuse children). Yes, everything we do is an act of our will, and we are responsible for our actions, but I think a little more explanation here might help.
Gallagher then dispels the excuse of lust based on how women dress. Good. Maybe a little more explanation here, like "what a woman wears can make it difficult to keep a pure mind", etc, but still, it's more important to dispel the myth of clothing equating to intent.
Gallagher does a good job describing the power of lust and imagination. Kudos.
Then Gallagher says something striking: "Only during the past 40 years, as psychology has gained ever-increasing within the Church, has it become suggested that masturbation is morally acceptable for a single person." Maybe Gallagher could've worded this in a way that didn't make psychology the enemy, as psychology (Dr. Carnes) is increasingly supporting the concept of sexual addiction and discovering new things about how it works.
In addition, this statement also tends to make integrationalist Christian Counseling (American Association of Christian Counselors, AACC) the enemy because they sometimes utilize psychology. I would like to point out that of all the agencies out there, it is AACC that is on the forefront of helping people with sexual addiction. I took [redacted][redacted] from , one of AACC's many supporting Christian universities, and AACC has a whole series of counseling training from Dr. Mark Laaser. By far, AACC is leading the way in equipping people to help sex addicts.
However, Gallagher is right to condemn those who teach that masturbation is acceptable. It is compulsive sexual behavior and often is the beginning of Satan's trap for people who become sexually addicted. He sort of doubles back and explains that counseling seems to be more about whether the power of God being active in the ministry of the therapist or counselor, and I agree. But maybe he could've said this first so that the previous statement wasn't so abrupt. I don't say Gallagher is wrong so much as too strong a statement without enough explanation can come across as judgmental.
Chapter 3Gallagher starts off destroying the illusion of control in addiction. The title of this chapter is The Spiral of Degradation, a fitting paradigm.
Gallagher begins to describe tolerance, i.e. when an addict needs more (and/or newer or more extreme) sexual behavior to be satisfied. Excellent job.
Gallagher also does an excellent job breaking through the lies we tell ourselves. One such lie that I'm very happy Gallagher addresses is "I'm walking with God, I just have this one little problem." Gallagher is right to call this what it is: a lie.
Chapter 3 is strong medicine. The truth needs to be said.
Chapter 4Gallagher addresses the problem with the undercurrent of sexual immorality being hidden by the church. He also addresses the difficulty in bringing this problem to light and the shame that sex addicts face. He also addresses how the church tends to be lenient on some sins while being harsh on others.
Chapter 5Gallagher starts out suggesting that men who want to be pure must leave jobs that give them a lot of freedom to do bad things. But I note that his logic stems from the job giving the person freedom. If victory over sexual addiction can only come with a job that gives people no freedom, then there is no hope for any man, for what happens when he gets a promotion? When he can't live because he chose a poor job that offers no freedom? What happens when he retires and has lots of time? I disagree with Gallagher: the root of the problem is the person, not their job. Any man can be completely sexually pure in virtually any job if he surrenders to the Holy Spirit.
Also, I find that this book seems to only give examples of men. I am waiting for Gallagher to give female examples: after all, women can become sex addicts, too.
Chapter 5 is very good at describing the process of sin.
Chapter 6Chapter 6 starts off with the Freudian/Jungian strawman of the anti-psychology movement. It's not that Jay Adams and others were incorrect to sound the alarm of psychology encroaching into the church. It's that their arguments are so stale and baseless.
Gallagher starts by saying that there's no need to delve into the addict's past is quite false. I'll point out that Dr. Carnes and Dr. Laaser point out the need to go into the addict's past to understand what may have contributed to the addiction. This is not to blame the past nor excuse the actions of the addict, but instead to understand what type of sexual addiction is being dealt with. Also, addicts often have past trauma and/or past sins they may be white washing: such false thinking must be corrected for them to fully heal. The person who thinks their past sexual abuse was justified based on what their abuser told them needs to be told the truth: that it was not ok. The person who committed any past crimes and believes it was ok needs to be told that their actions were wrong.
It is precisely this illogical complete aversion to everything psychological that often causes those within this anti-psychology movement to miss details and make false claims. Gallagher course-corrects, but then claims that this type of therapy leads the addict to blame others rather than himself. This is also not true, the false "anti guilt" strawman. Psychology doesn't insist on not feeling guilt: guilt is good, in fact. Lack of correct guilt over wrong actions can lead to a psychopathy diagnosis.
Gallagher then claims that the example of people in the Bible, notably Joseph, is an example of why it's wrong to focus on the past. This is actually incorrect: Joseph's brothers brought up the past and begged for forgiveness. Joseph didn't say "focus on the present." He said that God meant it for good, and used it to rescue most the people in that area from famine. Joseph didn't force them to focus on the now. He instead addressed it and forgave them for it. This whole line of reasoning is clearly wrong, for all sins are in the past versus forgiveness is a prayer said in the present. I think Gallagher comes to this conclusion too quickly in an attempt to discredit psychology. Even the example of King David (Ps. 51) he brings up, in that story Nathan confronts him over past sin with Bathsheba. The child he and Bathsheba had was clearly not in the present: the child had been born, so it had been at least 9 months. Is Gallagher's definition of "past sins" a bit fuzzy?
Gallagher continues the anti-psychology diatribe with claiming that such people believe that those who have been through traumatic past events are justified to continue living in sin because of their past trauma. I don't know of any psychology that states this. It might state that it's not surprising that such a person who was traumatized in the past is living the way they are in the present, but that's empathy. No one is justifying present sin with past trauma. We are not only products of our environment (see the nature vs nurture topic).
Gallagher continues his false diatribe with saying psychology is wrong to have people get stuck in the "quagmire" of their own emotions. I don't think Gallagher even understands how psychology or counseling work in relation to addiction, but I'll try to briefly point some things out. First, emotions are caused by thoughts, and we need to get to the bottom of why we think a certain way. Often, it's false beliefs that don't line up with the Word of God, false thoughts that need to be repented of and/or forsaken. Second, to say that the Bible doesn't deal with emotions need to read the Psalms and Proverbs. The Bible has a lot to say about our emotions and how they can cause us to stumble. Psalms 56:3 (HCSB) says "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." Psalm 4:4 (HCSB) says "Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still." Emotions can be windows into the soul. It would've been accurate for Gallagher to say that being overly concerned with emotions can be a fruitless exercise. Gallagher could've said "emotions come from thoughts" and pointed people to 2 Cor. 10:4-5. But instead he chose to drift away from truth telling into anything that can be said that seems to discredit psychology.
Gallagher in fact brings up a telling point, relating a story when his wife Kathy went to talk with some Christian psychotherapists about sexual sin, and overeating came up. Kathy proposed to them that maybe overeating is them simply loving food too much instead of "unmet needs", etc. This is a false dichotomy: it can be both. It is possible that a Christian addict could be neglecting to get their spiritual needs met with their relationship with God, leading them to search elsewhere for what they truly need (love from God), and finding the false substitute of overeating, and subsequently falling in love with food. Gallagher misses an opportunity to truly delve into the depths of what's going on in an addict. An addict didn't start out addicted, but over time, self-medicating their problems (such as unmet needs) may have caused them to try to meet these needs with inappropriate substitutes like food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, or sex. At first they may even fall in love with the substitute. But then the addiction becomes a monster and the addict finds they can't stop. Saying "unmet needs" is a false explanation is laughable.
Then Gallagher says no such thinking exists in Scripture. Not so. Jeremiah 2:13 talks with direct language about back-slidden sinners forsaking God and finding cracked substitutes (cisterns). Talking to the woman at the well, Jesus paralleled this type of figurative language, telling her that He was the living water. He even specifically said, "Anyone who drinks this water will thirst again" (speaking of the water within the well), and compared it to Himself. By the way, Jeremiah 2-5 is a great passage to read about the denial of nation Israel.
Gallagher discusses how Pure Life Ministries deals with all of the aspects of a believer's spiritual life. That's good. It's similar to how the 12 steps deal with all defects of character (sins) in the addict's life.
Gallagher also discusses how most addicts manifest lack of self-control in more than one area of their life. That's correct, and is echoed by Dr. Carnes, Dr. Laaser, and the 12 steps.
Then Gallagher lists that pride is often one of the manifestations of the addict's problem. But he goes further and says that effective biblical counseling is often confrontational. I think he's generalizing a bit too much. And why is this even listed here? Regardless, effective counseling may be confrontational in the loose sense of the word, but I find that approaching a person with pride in an overtly confrontational way is ineffective. Being gentle and subtle often helps far more than simply desiring to be "confrontational." One can subtly move an addict towards the realization of the truth without resorting to being harsh.
Chapter 7Gallagher addresses the difference between instant versus gradual recovery from sexual addiction. Given how confused most of Christendom is over the subject of addiction, this is a very badly needed section. Kudos.
However, as I read chapter 7, I notice that male pronouns still dominate this book. While the majority of sex addicts are male, a growing portion of sex addicts are female. These need to be addressed. If I had to build a ministry right now on a curriculum, I couldn't use this book for women: I'd have to use No Stones by Marnie Ferree for them. Also, I couldn't use this book for people who have been helped by 12 steps or therapists, as Gallagher tends to be critical of both of these. Maybe if Gallagher adjusted how he deals with these issues and made an attempt to make these subjects less confrontational, negative, and generalizing, this book would be a better fit. It's almost as if this is simultaneously the best and worst book on the subject.
Gallagher explains the principle of unmanageability in this chapter. He therefore agrees with the 12 steps and with (Dr. Patrick Carnes) psychology.
In this chapter, Gallagher relates a story that seems to reveal his veiled hatred of the 12 step programs (p. 124). Given that I discovered the 12 steps and (AACC) both the psychological and spiritual concepts of sex addiction before reading this book, and thus I'm not ignorant of either, I think Gallagher is trying too hard to either discredit 12 steps or to veil his hatred for them. Maybe if this was slightly reworded so that it's clear that the problem wasn't his program versus the 12 steps, but instead the mentality of a Christian who thought the Bible didn't have enough substance to set him free, Gallagher's intent might be either more clear (that he is not an enemy of the 12 steps) or more veiled (so that his hatred for the 12 steps didn't leak onto the pages).
His apparent dislike of the 12 steps makes many parts of this book slightly confusing. He agrees with Sex Addicts Anonymous on so many topics and principles. For instance, in this chapter, Gallagher relates the principles of "one day at a time" and how relapse works, and what to do after a relapse.
Chapter 8Gallagher almost seems to set off on a false premise of why his program is better than other programs, or at least why it works, citing the number of men set free. I'm glad his program sets people free: with as rampant as sex addiction is, surely any enemy of sexual addiction is my friend. However, I would appreciate it if he mentioned the actual statistics: how many men? I'd like to see longitudinal studies: how likely were they to stay sober? And over what time frame? I don't require such information so much as I'd like it so that I have evidence to show those who doubt his ministry. As others (Dr. Tan, Dr. Clinton) have mentioned before, when the nouthetics and more strictly biblical counseling agencies were approached in the past for statistics on how well their systems worked, few if any had solid information. I think this is the wrong time in history to neglect proving our ministries and models of counseling.
Gallagher brings up the topic of asking God for help in our addiction. This is a very good section, and much needed. I would recommend also adding to the litany of Bible verses 1 John 5:14 for a more direct statement. It is God's will that sinners repent and addicts recover: hence this verse might give more confidence in prayer. We're asking for what God already wants to give to us: surely our requests will be answered.
As I was reading the book I happened to glance at the back cover and notice that Dr. Tim Clinton has endorsed this book. This makes me happy in several ways, not the least of which is that he is the president of AACC.
In this chapter, Gallagher discusses how relapse triggers work. Good job: church congregants need to know this so that they understand why the addict struggles, as they watch that struggle play out in their lives.
Gallagher destroys the myth that marriage cures sexual addiction. Very good: I think too many in Christendom still hold to this myth. I think Gallagher is right: the single person may have an easier mountain to climb than the married sex addict.
That being said, Gallagher mentions starving the flesh in this passage, talking of the single sex addict. I wish that Gallagher had given a side comment to the 90 day dopamine reset recommended for married couples by Dr. Mark Laaser.
Chapter 9Gallagher compares our psyche to a computer. Funny: the computational theory of mind in psychology is analogous to this.
Chapter 10In this chapter, Gallagher makes a comment about health class teachers that won't take a stand against sexual immorality. By making this comment, and not fully fleshing out what he means, the reader is left with questions. Is he assuming all health teachers are "evil" by not mentioning it? Does he assume that health class teachers are even permitted to mention it? Is he talking about only public school health class teachers, or all health class teachers?
Gallagher also talks about saints who separated themselves from society. In this list is Enoch. I think Gallagher is reading into Enoch's life, because the Bible mentions very little about him. While not being against separating myself/ourselves from society, my confusion lies in how he says "the majority of Christians of old", etc. It's almost like an argumentum ad populum. At this point, Gallagher hasn't fully described what he means by separating ourselves, so again, the reader sort of has to guess. Given how separating ourselves versus being in the world (and not of it) and witnessing to the lost is a balancing act (because too much separation leads to no evangelism, etc), Gallagher could use a bit more explanation on this point, or at least a reference to a work by some author who fully describes this subject. One of Gallagher's example verses (Matt. 6:24) is more about allegiance than separation.
Then Gallagher accuses the majority of evangelicals of not being separate enough. I can agree, but it is noteworthy that Jesus was accused of not being separate enough (dining with tax collectors and sinners, etc). So more detail about this would be useful.
I like Gallagher's emphasis on limiting (if not eliminating) our use of TV and internet. I completely agree. However, Gallagher's dialogue on this topic seems to be an example of throwing out the baby with the bath water. A little more discussion of this would be helpful: how do we know what to stay away from? Can't we use TV and internet to witness to the lost? Can't we use the internet (IRC, Facebook) to help people learn spiritual principles? Can't we broadcast our sermons on YouTube? These examples are why either Gallagher could make a few caveats and refer the reader to a good book on the subject, etc. Gallagher puts his caveats at the end of this chapter.
Chapter 11Gallagher does a good job correcting the deliverance counseling movement in this chapter. I totally agree (as I have said before in a different article): you can't (for example) pray God deliver you from the demon of smoking if you keep willfully buying cigarettes. That's not a demonic attack. A demonic attack would be when someone puts a pack of cigarettes in your mail box, not when you keep buying them yourself. And my first thought would be, if I were counseling this person, to assess where they stand in their motivation and what possible mental health problems their smoking is medicating. Anxiety is a common one, for example.
Gallagher does a good job detailing sexual temptation and attack. But why does he not talk about how to resist it, yet?
Gallagher briefly mentions generational sin on the side. I believe he is right to deny that someone cannot break free of it. However, I think he also missed out on an opportunity to detail (ala Dr. Tim Clinton's book Why You Do The Things You Do and attachment theory) how this works and why it's important to break free.
Chapter 12Gallagher once again misrepresents the 12 steps, denying that we will always be addicted to sexual sin, and the same old cliches, like "you'll always identify yourself with your past sin", that you "must attend them as your primary means of recovery", and that this makes him a "loser," etc. Gallagher clearly doesn't understand the 12 steps and his knowledge of them is limited to those for whom the 12 steps didn't work (normally the fault of the addict, not the group), so all he has is negative information.
Gallagher also denies the concept of the maintenance phase in the stages of change model (I'm guessing). What do you call daily Bible reading, quiet time, and prayer, if not maintaining the new spiritual life?
Gallagher seems to think maintenance is "caging the beast" and makes some illogical references to this being "respecting" and "befriending" our problem, etc. What do you call the sin nature, then? It is medical science that addictions build new, powerful mental pathways in the brain. Addictions re-map the brain. To deny this is simply illogical, especially in light of the concept of relapse (which Gallagher acknowledges). These are just baseless, illogical accusations, and I am used to hearing them.
Given Romans 7-8, even Scripture says we will never be completely free from the influence of sin nature. And to think one breaks free is dangerous, given that this can lead to pride, and pride can lead to stumbling.
Also, given the many times that all 12 step literature promises freedom (using that specific word in their texts), to say that the 12 steps don't give or offer freedom reveals Gallagher's ignorance.
Then Gallagher recounts a story of an addict who didn't achieve success in the 12 steps. First, without mentioning the specifics, this is bearing false witness. Second, this story lists why the addict didn't achieve sobriety: not working the 12 steps. But this begs the question: if one example of the 12 steps not working is proof that they aren't good (baby and the bathwater fallacy), does one example of a failure within Pure Life Ministries make Pure Life Ministries bad? Because all ministries, all counseling centers, have at least one person for whom they did not work. It's a false conclusion.
Gallagher mentions that recovery is an inside-out change process. I agree, and the 12 steps also say so. So does counseling psychology, to a point.
Gallagher says recovery is a new way of life: so do the 12 steps, and so does counseling psychology.
Gallagher is clearly demonstrating a surface-level understanding of both fields. Also, I think Gallagher needs to flesh this out even more. Human beings are only ever growing or shrinking. It's a law of nature. You can't be an Olympic weight lifter and then quit for a full year and expect to have the same level of strength you did a year ago. You can't "maintain" spiritual growth: you are either growing or shrinking. That's why (as Gallagher and the 12 steps agree) recovery is a spiritual journey, not a destination (at least on earth).
Chapter 13Gallagher mentions a story in this chapter which he seems to use to endorse a mentality that "only Pure Life Ministries" works. Yet, in the story, again we see why other methods before Pure Life Ministry didn't work: the person admitted he was too proud to let the other programs work for him, such as (he uses quotation marks) Christian psychotherapy and the 12 steps.
Chapter 14Gallagher details the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, meditation, and reading and memorizing the Bible. It's good that he addresses these, and our tendency to think of these as the "same old" things we were taught. I agree: these "same old" spiritual disciplines set us free. And ironically, the 12 steps teach all but the last spiritual discipline he mentions (above).
Then Gallagher mentions Jay Adams. This is telling, as it identifies what belief system Gallagher holds.
Chapter 15Gallagher addresses the lack of Christian teaching from the pulpit on sexual addiction and lust. Gallagher is absolutely correct to point this out. It's a huge problem within the Christian church. This topic needs to be addressed, and it also needs to be elaborated upon. How does one break free from sexual addiction? Where can addicts find help? These questions need to be answered in sermons.
Gallagher is also right to (again) critique TV and internet. He's absolutely right: addicts need to filter or even get rid of these influences during recovery.
Then Gallagher mentions how being a giver and helping others helps break the addict of some of their sins (12 steps, "character defects"). I completely agree. This is echoed in the 12 steps: service.
Chapter 16Gallagher does a good to call marriage a commitment. But I think in giving a one-facet description, he misses out. He says love is a choice, a commitment. But I think he could more fully develop the other aspects, such as covenant, emotion and thought. Love is too complex a concept to be explained in only one area.
Gallagher does a good job shooting down false social and media constructs, but at some points he seems to be slightly incoherent.
Gallagher then (probably unwittingly) gives the same car and speed analogy on addiction and the brain as Dr. Michael Lyles gave about all addiction in a speech for [redacted] class at [redacted] University. As well, the way Gallagher describes this concept, it would dovetail very well with Dr. Mark Laaser's recommended 90 day dopamine reset for married sex addicts.
Chapter 17Gallagher does an excellent job of explaining and clarifying what grace is and what it's not. I especially like his quote from Dr. Michael Brown.
However, here's where some very serious problems with Gallagher's models of how to break free are evident: in his own story about resisting temptation, he left a speech and broke away from a male coworker at this event to hitch a ride home with a very beautiful temptress on his way to his hotel. After reading Gallagher's story, deafening alarm bells are going off in my mind. Why would he ever hitch a ride alone with a woman? This is a horrible idea for any married man, much less a speaker on sexual addiction, much less for a sex addict. If Gallagher had been through or at least read the 12 steps, he'd know this is a very bad idea. No mention of calling a "battle buddy" or accountability partner or sponsor or person from his 12 step group (to which Dr. Mark Laaser also agrees). No mention of immediately praying to God for help. Dr. Mark Laaser has been in recovery over 12 years and yet every time he travels he has people call in and check on him. This is echoed in the copious Bible passages to pray for each other, and to God when in distress. I cannot therefore endorse this book because this story of self-reliance or reliance upon the Holy Spirit to convict is not the only thing one should depend upon. Especially for nearly all sex addicts, who are used to ignoring the Holy Spirit repeatedly throughout their lives. To be honest, at this point I nearly threw the book in the trash. Sex addiction is a difficult addiction to overcome, one that requires an intensive multi-faceted approach.
But if that wasn't enough, then Gallagher mentions yet another story where he ended up in a gas station looking at a pornographic magazine. This is, again, horrible. No mention of immediately phoning a sponsor, accountability partner, wife, or fellow addict in recovery. No mention of calling a pastor. No mention of avoiding slippery people, places, and things (12 step literature). Those deafening alarm bells again go off in my head. I can't really hand this book to a recovering addict or addict who wants to change because this huge self-reliance on the part of Gallagher is not a good example on how to avoid temptation. And to be fair, in 12 step and all other literature I have read, reading that pornographic magazine is a relapse, not a good example of how he avoided temptation.
This is a good book in the spiritual
aspect. Aside from the glaring problems in the last
chapter, Gallagher does an excellent job vanquishing societal
falsehoods, Christian misconceptions, and the schemes of the
Devil. For the most part, this book is good. Many
times, while Gallagher was teaching on spiritual concepts, I
wanted to run up and down the isles of a church screaming
"Hallelujah!" Many topics Gallagher addresses have been
neglected in Christendom.
However, there are some problems. I think the foremost problems I run into are Gallagher's unnatural hatred of everything other than his own system, which is usually seen as a manifestation of pride. He demonstrates a surface level understanding of psychology and the 12 step literature.
Most damaging of all, however, is his lack of a thorough recovery plan and what actions an addict might need to take to become free. This is seen in (above) his last chapter.
At this point, as I am reviewing literature for designing a ministry to sex addicts, I can't use this book. Or even if I could, I would have to give an hour long caveat talk, in session, with an addict. This means this book, though it has many good parts, is only going to create more work for me if I were to utilize it. It might be good source material for a book on the topic, however.
Based on my reading, this means AACC's literature on the topic, mostly by Dr. Mark Laaser and Dr. Patrick Carnes, is still superior to all others.