March 2, 2016

An Analysis of Celebrate Recovery Addictions Program – Part 1

by Eric Davis

Enslaving behaviors are as old, and common to humanity, as sin itself. Since our fall at the dawn of time, we have been naturally enslavement to every destructive behavior possible. In response, various efforts have been made to deal with the problem.

One such effort is a packaged addictions program called Celebrate Recovery (CR). John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church created the program in 1991 to help people with various addictions. Rick Warren writes, “[D]uring the ten-week series that I preached to kick off this program, our attendance grew by over 1500!” (John Baker, Celebrate Recovery Leader’s Guide, 12). During the past 25 years, some 20,000 churches in the United States have reportedly used CR, with some 2.5 million people having completed the program. Needless to say, CR has had a major influence on the church.

CR’s stated purpose is “to encourage fellowship and to celebrate God’s healing power in our lives as we work our way along the road to recovery” (21). Further, Warren claims that CR is “more effective in helping people change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of” (12).

Generally, the program runs on a one-year repeating schedule. Participants are taken through the material in 25 lessons and testimonies, meeting once per week for 52 weeks. Rick Warren writes that CR was born when “I began an intense study of the Scriptures to discover what God had to say about ‘recovery.’ To my amazement, I found the principles of recovery—in their logical order—given by Christ in His most famous message, the Sermon on the Mount” (12). More specifically, CR teaches that the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), which are said to be “eight ways to be happy,” contain the progressive path to addiction recovery.

The eight principles upon which CR is derived are as follows (the principle is stated, followed by the corresponding Beatitude):

The Road to Recovery

  1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1) “Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor” (Matt. 5:3, though the CR manual cites these verses as the NIV, they are all taken from the GNT). 
  1. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2) “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). 
  1. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3) “Happy are the meek” (Matt. 5:5). 
  1. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5) “Happy are the pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8). 
  1. Celebrate_Recovery_Zondervan_large

    Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7) “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires” (Matt. 5:6). 

  1. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9) “Happy are the merciful” (Matt. 5:7). “Happy are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). 
  1. Reserve a time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11) (no verse cited).
  1. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12) “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires” (Matt. 5:10).

Clever readers will notice that the first letter from each of the eight steps forms the acronym, “recovery.” CR’s approach takes each of the eight principles and expounds them with a few lessons, forming the 25 lessons in which participants are guided through how to deal with their “hurts, hang-ups, and habits” (the oft-used phrase in CR to describe our problems which need recovery).

Since CR claims to be Christian in nature, “biblical” (13), grounded in God’s word (12), and[b]ased on the actual words of Jesus rather than on psychological theory” (12), it deserves to be evaluated as such. This review is based upon the program’s teaching as stated in the CR Leadership Guide only (pages cited are from this guide) and is not a critique of every person who has participated in the program. Further, the purpose of this review is not to question whether the 2.5 million participants have felt that they were assisted with enslaving behaviors, nor to doubt the sincerity of individuals seeking to help, but, instead, to examine CR’s claim to be biblically based.

Having said that, this review (completed largely with the help of Matthew Mumma, pastor of biblical counseling at Cornerstone Church) will demonstrate that CR contains two major problems: (1) Though claiming to be biblically based, its teachings are often constructed from a misuse of Scripture and an erroneous hermeneutic. (2) Though claiming to be Christian based, its theology often clashes with sound Christian theology. In today’s post, this first problem will be demonstrated.

  1. Many of CR’s teachings are constructed from a misuse of Scripture and an erroneous hermeneutic.

The clearest instance of this occurs in the principles upon which CR is founded. CR’s “Road to Recovery” begins with the “Eight Principles Based on the Beatitudes” (12), stated above. Thus, CR claims that the Beatitudes are principles for addiction recovery.

This interpretation, however, incorrectly understands the Beatitudes by removing them out of their context and interpreting them in an eisegetical manner. As such, CR imposes a meaning other than the authorial intent upon the text. When Christ preached the Beatitudes, he did not intend for them to be a protocol for recovery. Neither are they “ways to be happy” (12). Instead, the Beatitudes are descriptions of kingdom citizens; of individuals having been saved by God’s grace. Commentators agree that the Beatitudes describe the common characteristics of true believers (e.g. John Blanchard, 54; James Boice, 74; D.A. Carson, 128, 132; D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1:24; Charles Quarles, 39). Jesus begins this great sermon by turning the common understanding of those in God’s favor on its head. The Pharisees, who largely set the religious/spiritual tone of the day, would have propagated the photo-negative of the Beatitudes, and, thus, an incorrect understanding of the believer. For this reason, Jesus brings clarity to the scene with these corrections. 


Specifically, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3) is not a recovery principle, teaching that “I’m not God…powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable” (9). Instead, Jesus teaches that one certain evidence of the true believer is a poverty of spirit. The word “poor” was used to describe abject poverty and a raggedly covered (if covered at all) beggar, cowered over with head down and hand out (TDNT, 6:886), while “in spirit” refers to our moral/spiritual state. The idea is that the sinner has come to terms with God’s towering moral standards for humanity; absolute perfection (cf. Matt. 5:48). Further, he understands that, having rebelliously and flagrantly violated God’s holy law, he deserves to endure the righteous wrath of God in hell for eternity. Thus, he comes to God, as nothing more than a head down, hand out, moral beggar, with zero moral/spiritual contribution to God except sin. Being morally filthy, the sinner depends entirely on God’s mercy if he is going to be acceptable to God. So, Matthew 5:3 does not teach a principle for recovering from addictions, but that true believers understand that they cannot earn God’s favor from their impressive moral wealth, but have only earned his wrath by their offensive moral filth. 

Similar problems exist with CR’s other foundational principles. For example, Matthew 5:4 does not teach that one must “earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover” (9). Instead, Jesus teaches that true believers are characterized as those who are shattered and sorrowful for having sinned against God (“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”). Matthew 5:8 does not teach that, to recover, I must “[o]penly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust” (9). The verse teaches nothing about addiction recovery nor confessing faults to myself. Rather, Jesus is teaching that true believers are characterized by a measure of spiritual and moral purity even at the level of the will and worship. And, notwithstanding the GNT, Matthew 5:6 does not say, “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires,” but, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Thus, in addition to an imposed meaning on the text, CR often uses inadequate translations of Scripture.

So, many of the principles upon which CR rests and from which the curriculum is expounded are constructed from a misuse of Scripture and erroneous hermeneutics. Consequently, if CR intends to find a protocol for recovery, they will need to look somewhere other than the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.

CR errs elsewhere in its use of Scripture. Often words taken from the realm of psychology are used in place of God’s word to describe sin. For example, terms such as “co-dependent,” “addiction,” and “abusing” (167) of substances are not found in Scripture. One reason is because those terms are not God’s way of describing those behaviors.


Instead, Scripture describes addictions in terms of sinful enslavement to ones lusts and pleasures and lovers of pleasure (e.g. Rom. 6:12-13, Eph. 2:3, 2 Tim. 3:4). One who is addicted to, or practices the abuse of, alcohol, for example, is best referred to as a drunkard or drunkenness (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:10, Gal. 5:21). God made no mistakes in the inspiration of his word (cf. Prov. 30:5-6, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, it is best for us to use his Spirit-given terms when describing all things, whether sins or blessings.

CR misuses Scripture in its teaching of forgiveness. For example, the assertion is made that since we have been forgiven by God, we must forgive ourselves (193). Matthew 22:39 (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”) is used to support the assertion. The question is posed, “Now, how can you love or forgive your neighbor, if you can’t love or forgive yourself?” (193). Jesus is not implying, much less teaching, self-love or self-forgiveness there. On the contrary, much of our sinfulness is excessive self-love (more on this in tomorrow’s post). The idea is not that self-love and self-forgiveness is the gate to love others, but to love others as much as we effortlessly do ourselves.

Additionally, the idea of forgiving oneself is an unbiblical idea not found in Scripture, thus one that Christians must reject. Forgiveness is a transaction between parties when the offended releases the offender from an infraction. While we can sin against other people, all of our sin is against the One to whom we are culpable; God. Thus, forgiveness is needed from God, not ourselves.

Though claiming to be biblically based, many of CR’s teachings are constructed from a misuse of Scripture and an erroneous hermeneutic. Consequently, participants are not shepherded in an accurate handling of God’s word. One likely objection may be, “So many people have been helped by CR. How can one criticize something that works so well?” We do not doubt that people have received help from CR in curbing addictions. In some measure, that is a good thing. However, the objection hinges on the definition of “works well” and “people being helped.” Further, should something that misinterprets God’s word and errs theologically be so justified?

In tomorrow’s post, we will compare the theology of CR with that of Scripture and suggest alternatives for shepherding individuals battling with various enslavements.

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • Becky Buczinski

    Super helpful Eric and Matt. Thanks for thinking through all of this.

  • Dave O

    It is akin to treating malnutrition with sugar water and candy bars-yeah it satisfies and satiates the senses briefly, but you will still die of starvation and extremely poor health. Addiction can only be adequately addressed when someone comes to terms with the true nature of its root and treatment.

  • Still Waters

    Reading the RECOVERY acronym brings back memories of IBLP’s Basic Seminar and ATI’s Wisdom Booklets, which were the single most spiritually destructive influence on my young adult years. Setting out steps for spiritual victory simply leads to bondage to the works of the flesh. The Holy Spirit works in each person differently, and what might take only an instant to change in one person may take years in another.

    That being said, I would like to push back a little on the criticism about using words taken from psychology. I always wince a little when someone says we shouldn’t use terms for a given problem because aren’t taken from the Bible. After all, we don’t use the term leprosy to describe all of the various skin conditions which are under that term in the Law. Words like addiction are simply descriptive of a problem, and while they can be used to cover for sin, they can also be used to convict someone of their need. If someone uses such words to excuse their sin, it is because they don’t want to be convicted; it isn’t the fault of the words. Also, addiction is a medical problem as well as a spiritual. A chronic alcoholic is sinning by his recurring drunkenness, but his body has become so dependent on the alcohol that to quit suddenly could very well kill him.

    • Matt Mumma

      Thanks for your comment. Agreed that it may not necessarily be the fault of the words but one’s understanding or misuse of them, but words still have meaning and implications. Psychological terms do not have the same meaning as those of the Bible. Rather than tweaking the psychological terms to try and fit into the bible, let us use the language that bible already uses and the Spirit inspired for us to be able to see into our hearts (Heb 4:12). We don’t need modern terms to understand humanity and our struggles.

      Yes, the Bible does use words like cancer or Parkinsons, or other medical terms, but yet we use them. However, the issue here with psychological labels is different than using medical terminology. The words that Celebrate Recovery uses to describe various psychological diagnoses are sins by Biblical standards. Why would we want to call sin something other than what it is? Yes, people may want to avoid conviction by saying they are an alcoholic, so let us use the terms that bible uses (drunkard) to help with their conviction.

      Using terms like alcoholic or co-dependent may be useful to start out talking to someone about their struggle, but those labels needs to quickly defined and re-worded according to biblical language. Words and labels can be at fault if they are used as an excuse for sin. They also can be at fault if used as a means of identity. CR claims to teach identity in Christ, yet they still practice what AA does by introducing themselves by their first name then what “addiction” they struggle with. Again, the labels used are a means of identifying with that struggle.

      Why should we be okay with someone thinking they will have a lifelong label as an alcoholic, when the Scripture states that you can repent of your drunkenness (1 Cor 6:10-11). Or why be okay with someone saying they are co-denpendent when they need to realize that they are fearing man’s approval and applause. Using biblical language is the most helpful and brings the most clarity and conviction from the Spirit.

      • Fibber MaGee


        “Yes, the Bible does use words like cancer or Parkinsons, or other medical terms, but yet we use them. However, the issue here with psychological labels is different than using medical terminology.”

        I’m assuming you forgot to insert the word not, is that correct?

        Why do you claim that mental illness is not a medical issue? Just exactly why is it different? I would really like to understand why you believe this before I respond.

        Eric, great piece!

        • Matt Mumma

          Thanks for pointing out that error. It should be corrected.

          You will notice that I did not say that a “mental Illness” is not a medical issue. While I do believe that, a defense of that statement would be a different post entirely.

          However, I think you are referring to my saying that issues addressed in the article and addition counseling in general are not to be compared with medical diseases. Comparing someone who gets drunk with someone who has a brain tumor is not a true comparison. One is choice and one is a true medical disease.

          Can the so-called illness of “alcoholism” really be a labeled as a mental illness? No. It is the sin the bible calls drunkenness. Co-dependence is not an illness either. It is the fear of man and can be repented of.

          • Fibber MaGee

            Well…you just said it, and it is the issue I’m addressing. I’m addressing it because you can’t just throw it out without any explanation and evidence.

            “However, I think you are referring to my saying that issues addressed in the article and addition counseling in general are not to be compared with medical diseases. Comparing someone who gets drunk with someone who has a brain tumor is not a true comparison. One is choice and one is a true medical disease.”

            That is not what I am referring to at all. You are calling what most in the medical community and the AMA consider part of medicine. It is almost impossible to grasp the complexity of the human brain and genetic testing shows us that 50 – 60 % of individuals with addiction disorders have someone in their family with it. Why is it ok to use words like cancer and Parkinson’s, but not addiction? Smells like bias to me, especially if I don’t get an explanation. I don’t mean to be rude, but ignorance (destitute of knowledge) is probably more appropriate.

            What about homosexuality, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and the many other mental disorders? Are they all sin and not medical? Does salvation erase the desire for the sin completely or does God provide us with a way to overcome that temptation? To make a blanket statement that these conditions are not medical and therefore blatant unrepentant sin is nonsense. I would encourage you to look honestly at this and not engage anyone in this situation lest you embarrass Christianity.

          • Matt Mumma

            I should clarify that I do ni think that all mental illnesses are purely said n issues. We are body and spirit and so we need to make sure that if there is an organic medical issue that we get the help we can. However, even with a certain medical diagnoses that does not mean that the bible has nothing to say.

            Even if all addictions were somehow proven to have a medical aspect to them, we cannot and must not overlook what the bible says about the issue. Sin must be repented of and not excused.

            I know this didn’t really answer the objection, but being a comment section on a blog it’s hard to sufficiently answer something this big. I would recommend going to and search for the gospel as mental illness. There are many good resources that will give greater clarity to this issue.

          • Still Waters

            “Sin must be repented of and not excused.”
            Agreed, but treating an addiction isn’t excusing sin. Standing over a an alcoholic who is raving through delirium tremens and telling him he must repent of the sin of drunkenness isn’t going to help him. When Christ encountered the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, he healed him physically first, and then spoke to him of sin and repentance (John 5:1-15).

          • Matt Mumma

            Agreed. If someone is at the point of needing medical treatment because their life is in danger, lets do what we can to keep them alive.

          • Still Waters

            Alcoholism is a physical dependency. As I learned in my healthcare training, the most dangerous drug to withdraw from is alcohol. I have no doubt that most readers are aware that heroin or cocaine withdrawal can cause horrible physical symptoms; well, alcohol exceeds them. Delirium tremens are a real physical concern: Yes, there was sin involved in starting to regularly drink, but by the time alcoholism is reached, the alcoholic’s body, not just his mind, tells him to drink more. The body’s metabolism has changed to absorb the excess alcohol; and suddenly removing that doesn’t give the body time to readjust its metabolism. It will start to break down and go into shock. Without medical intervention, death may occur.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Reminds me of Ecclesiates 8:8, “Evil will not release those who practice it” and “A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:19) Praise God that Christ came to set us free from sin and death!

          • Mel M

            However, it does not take years to recover from the body’s addiction to alcohol. After the physical recovery, what’s left is the emotional pain that led the person to become physically addicted in the first place. If not dealt with properly, one only trades one addiction for another and that is what happens in “recovery”. CR is simply another addiction. 12 step programs are not the answer.

        • Eric Davis

          Thanks, Fibber. Much credit should go to Matt for his work, as well.

      • Ken Bakke

        I have been a follower of Christ for over 60 years and have a high respect for the authority & life changing power of scripture.
        The current, widely held, fear that evangelicals have of tapping into & appreciating the tremendous observations if modern science leaves me exasperated.
        Science is now able to better understand the complexities of God’s magnificent creation, ( physics, astronomy, psychology, the human genome, etc.), giving the church the opportunity to tweak it’s ancient near east interpretation of portions of scripture… but what do we hear from our pastors & teachers…? “Oh no!!! All that knowledge is of Satan!”
        “If it isn’t found in scripture, don’t believe it!” Incredibly niave & foolish beyond words. We are losing an entire generations of young people due to our rediculous response! Shame on us!

        • Matt Mumma

          This is not about Scripture verses Science. I am not afraid of science and modern research. However, I am convinced that Scripture is superior to science.

          These resources may help to bring further clarity.

        • Eric Davis

          Ken, thanks for stopping by. I understand your concern that we are not afraid of studying general revelation. I taught college physics for a number of years and enjoy studying the intricacies of God’s creation. And I assure you, friend, that we are not saying that the knowledge of general revelation is wrong or of Satan. You seem to have extrapolated a bit in your conclusion. No such thing is said in the article or our comments. Instead, what is of Satan is an epistemology which subjects Scripture to another body of knowledge. That’s all. Hope that makes sense.

      • Still Waters

        My intent in pointing out that such terms as ‘addiction’ have validity was not to defend ‘Celebrate Recovery’. I made it quite clear that I regard such programs as unhelpful. I was merely observing that criticizing its use of certain vocabulary isn’t the strongest of arguments. Psychological terms are frequently medical; they are used in psychiatry and other medical fields. As I mentioned above, addiction describes a physical condition. Co-dependent is a perfectly good word to point out someone who is enabling another person’s addiction. It doesn’t mask anything. Addictions are recognized as destructive behaviours in the field of medicine. It is not in the scope of medicine to be able to cure the sin problem, but they have to deal with the physical consequences of it. Thus they have created terms to communicate the extent of the problem to one another. For example, because of the potentially fatal consequences of sudden withdrawal in an alcoholic, if an alcoholic is hospitalized, that fact needs to be communicated to the staff, who must run an intravenous line containing a low amount of alcohol in order to prevent the withdrawal symptoms, which could, in their intensity, endanger not only the patient, but also other patients and the staff. If they are helping a patient to detox, the term co-dependent can signal the presence in that patient’s life of a person who will potentially be counter-productive to their efforts. The terminology has its place and its use.

  • Sir Aaron

    This content upon which this review is based, is precisely what we’ve come to expect from Rick Warren. It is the same tired seeker sensitive drivel that infects everything he does. You take a generally sound Biblical principle then apply philosophical practices mixed in with some eisegesis of Scripture and out comes a golden…er…25 week program. And even then, many times the Scripture translations are used because they contain the words desired rather than for their faithfulness to the meaning of the original language.

    It’s hard to imagine having a “road to recovery” that doesn’t start with the gospel. I mean if you aren’t saved, you’re just going through a self-help program same as any other secular program. (That’s not to say self-help programs have zero value.)

  • Matt Mumma

    It can also be noted that in the leaders guide and on their website, you can see how the 8 Principles for recovery, that they claim come from the beatitudes, have a corresponding Step from AA’s 12 Steps to recovery. CR has tried to put the bible into a secular system by using eisegsis rather than exegesis.

  • BruceS

    “CR errs elsewhere in its use of Scripture. Often words taken from the
    realm of psychology are used in place of God’s word to describe sin. For
    example, terms such as “co-dependent,” “addiction,” and “abusing” (167)
    of substances are not found in Scripture. One reason is because those
    terms are not God’s way of describing those behaviors.”

    Umm, no, Maybe terms such as “co-dependent” etc. are not found in scripture. So…? Would you expect them in any document written in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek?

    • Matt Mumma

      Yes, those terms are not used in the bible, so we should care that they are propagated in the church. God has written in His Word all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Tim 3:16-17; Heb 4:120), so we do not need to replace the language He used. When we do replace the words such as “enslavement” (Rom 6:12-18), “lusts,” or “desires” (James 1:13-14; 4;1-3), for words like “addiction” we take away some of the meaning that God is showing us about our sinful selves.

      • BruceS

        Just to take the examples you have given Matt, how does replacing “lust” with “addiction” “take away some of the meaning”? Doesn’t it rather clarify the meaning? — I’m not arguing for any particular translation here, simply making an observatiion about how words relate to meaning.
        Also we do “need to replace the language He used” simply by translating, no?

        • Matt Mumma

          The main issue here is that of worship. All “addictions” are the worship of someone or something other than God. Words like “lust” bring to mind the strong desire of an object of worship. It is something I do. The word “addiction” or “alcoholism” bring more of the idea of something I have and something is being done to me. It can tend to take blame off of me and onto my addiction.

          • BruceS

            Matt, NO these words do not BRING that idea. I think you are misunderstanding how meaning and language are related. My original comment was about why the VOCABULARY of the Bible is to be the criterion for whether CR is Biblical or not. Especially since we are dealing with different languages.

  • Chad Prigmore

    Thank you for such a well written and concise article exposing the truth of Celebrate Recovery. Unfortunately, in my own experience those in leadership positions at Churches who rely on CR almost never seem to care what the scriptural truth is. Please keep raising awareness. God Bless.

    • Matt Mumma

      Thanks Chad.

  • gwkinney

    I don’t even know what the words eisegsis or exegesis mean without looking them up. All I know is that, as a born again Christian struggling with alcohol addiction, my first time at CR was also my first day of sobriety that has now lasted over 8 years. I am 50 and this is the longest consecutive period of sobriety of my adult life. I went from drinking up to a fifth a day (more on weekends) to not even having the slightest temptation to drink – bless God! CR works and the reason it works is because it all comes back to Jesus. Through CR, He has saved my life, my marriage, my family, my home and my job. He has restored my sanity, my health and my relationships with God and His church. In addition to helping lead our church’s CR group, we take CR “Inside” a state prison each week as well as the local men’s homeless shelter. The past 8 years have been like having a front row seat to watch God at work transforming lives and rescuing believers from their hurts, habits & hang ups. In that time, I have never heard anything but the truth from Rick Warren, John Baker, the various national, state & local leaders and the programming itself. I am far from a Biblical scholar or theologian; I am just a beggar telling other beggars where to find bread. The fact is, in my humble opinion based solely on my experience, there is nothing about the CR program that will cause anyone to stumble, fall away from God or lose their salvation. Blessing to all!

    • Eric Davis

      Gwkinney – thank you for your comments, friend. I appreciate it. And I thank God for how he has blessed you with the years of sobriety, your life, marriage, and job. That is a wonderful thing to hear. I am also grateful to hear about your heart for men in the prisons and homeless shelters. We need guys like you out there who have a heart for such things.

      Our attempt in this series is not to deny how people have been assisted to curb addictive habits. We do not deny that at all. Rather, our concern is with the teaching content of CR. Specifically, we attempted to examine how the content squares with a proper understanding off God’s word and Christian theology. CR teaches that it is a biblically-based program, so, the goal was to examine that, since there have been many concerns.

      We believe that it is clear that CR errs both in its understanding of Scripture and its theological accuracy. That’s a big deal. This series demonstrates that.

      Now, the question is: Should we use a program/material that, at times, misuses God’s word and promotes understandings of God, man, sin, and salvation which are not biblically accurate, but produces a desire result?

      In this case, the desired result is helping people curb addictive habits. It’s a question about which we need to think carefully. What is a higher goal; faithfulness to God’s word or helping people curb hurts, hang-ups, and habits? And need there be a dichotomy between the two? There does not, in fact. In this series, we suggest that we can actually accomplish both: we can use material which is superior to CR AND help people struggling with various enslavements. In other words, we can teach people with an accurate understanding of Scripture and sound Christian theology AND help them with enslaving sins. In fact, as we argue in part 2 of this article, we believe that we can actually do MORE to help people with hurts, hang-ups, and habits IF we teach them in such a way which uses Scripture correctly and accurate Christian theology. I hope that makes sense. The goal here is to do great good by helping people. And, the best way to help people is God’s way; accurate handling of God’s word and accurate theology from the word.

      Part 2 explains this in greater detail, while also suggesting material that his superior to CR. Thanks again GWkinney.

  • Christina

    I do not agree with your synopsis. More or less you are saying that it was my fault; due to lusts or other reasons, that I was abused. Sir, you don’t know what it’s like to have someone touch you where you don’t want to be touched. I’ve worked really hard to see that I wasn’t to blame for my abuse. Jesus did help the sexually broken: the adulteress, the woman that cried her tears on His feet. Rehab; who was a prostitute, is a part of Jesus’ human lineage. My pastor would not allow anything that wasn’t biblically based. He believes and teaches from the Bible. Yes, I’ve had to learn to love myself. I used to feel dirty and ashamed; a lot of that due to sexual abuse. I read the passage of the beatitudes today. It never said Jesus was preaching to certain people. Jesus wanted people to be saved. He ministered to everyone. Yes, Jesus will help us recover from our habits, hang ups, or hurts. There’s nothing wrong with Biblical counseling!!!! This article made me angry and was very hurtful to others like me. We all can’t snap our fingers and everything’s fine. The woman with the issue of blood had it for 12 years. The man at the healing pool had been paralyzed for 38 years. You can take anything out of context. I’m very disappointed. I’ll be praying for God to open your eyes to the truth.

    • Eric Davis

      Hi Christina – Thank you for your comments. First, we assure you that we are not saying that these horrible sins committed against you are your fault. Those wicked things which people committed are not your fault. And I am so, so sorry that you had to endure such horror. We are so sorry. Though I was enslaved to various sins prior to my conversion, you are right, I have never been abused in such ways. People who commit such things, as they did to you, must be held accountable and brought to appropriate justice.

      And we agree with you completely; Jesus did minister to the sexually broken. Praise God that he did! He loves the brokenhearted (cf. Ps. 34:18-19). In no way were we saying the contrary in this article. I praise God that you have found the peace, love, compassion, and mercy in our wonderful Lord Jesus.

      Do you think it is possible that you may have misunderstood a bit of the article? If I understand your concern correctly, we are not saying in this article that we are responsible for the sins committed against us. Scripture does not teach any such thing. Individuals will be held responsible for their own sins, not sins committed against them (cf. Ezek. 18).

      We are saying that those who commit sins are responsible for their own sins. For example, when I was enslaved to alcohol, drugs, and other sins, prior to my conversion to Christ, it was certainly my fault. I was the one choosing to worship the feelings and comfort those things gave me. I was the one actively deciding to sin. James 1 teaches that “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin…” (Jas. 1:14-15). That is the assertion we are making in this article. CR’s theology (see Part 2) risks saying that people like me were simply victims of low self-esteem and self-image. That is not what Scripture teaches (again, see Part 2 of this series). I hope that makes sense. Please consider that.

      Again, Christina, I am so, so sorry for the atrocities you experienced. Christ loves you and certainly can/will/is use those things for good (Rom. 8:28). He brings beauty out of ashes, right (cf. Gen. 50:20)? He is so, so good. He will bring all these things to a very good end when we join him in glory one day! Praise God!

      Also, I would recommend a few books for you, in case you are not familiar with them, which helpfully address the terrible things you experienced. First, “Rid of My Disgrace.” Second, “No Place to Cry.” Those who have suffered as you, have said that these were helpful.

      Thanks again for stopping by, Christina. I will pray that God continues to show his rich love to you.

  • Mel M

    It’s been a while since I spent time digging to find out if there was any real criticism of CR. It’s fascinating to me that there is so little considering the damage I’ve experienced and I know I’m not alone. I can only assume people are either afraid to speak out or like me, too busy recovering from recovery to bother. i entered recovery after my husband had been arrested for assault. We joined together and for a while things were better than they had been for years. But the focus was on him. He was the abuser and the alcoholic, I was the “victim”.

    Things improved because after years of emotional abuse, he was being reigned in and I began to heal and let my guard down…then he began a backward slide, but only in front of and to me and when that happened it all got turned on it’s head. I was not recovering fast enough, I was desperately trying to get the leaders to understand that he was in no way recovered but now a more dangerous abuser. This is where they would quickly point out the sins I was continuing to commit. This is where the secondary but just as hideous abuse began and it almost destroyed me.

    I continue to live in the same house, and I no longer attend CR or the church I had grown to love. My abuser found a haven and continues to be a big part of the program.

    He is not recovered.

    I mentioned in my first paragraph that I’m surprised by the lack of criticism and I am. Is there another program as large as Celebrate Recovery that escapes criticism like CR does? That is not a rhetorical question. I have been surprised by the lack of serious commentary on what I see as a dangerous cult.

    When I think of how I have been treated and how a person that was one of my accountability partners, and the female leader of this group turned against me to champion an abuser, I can only be reminded of instances where people who have left a cult are criticized and minimized in an attempt to make anything they say against the leader appear to be bitterness.

    I am not bitter. I feel sadness that an entire community of believers have been taken in by a man whose only goal is to “get away” with whatever he can at anyone’s expense.

    I am heart broken by the abuse that continues in the form of false teaching and by having people proclaim their powerlessness week after week when, as believers, we have the power of the Creator. He makes me strong. He is my strength. I am not powerless.

    Thank you for your thoughtful commentary. Please don’t stop, there are others like me who need to be validated, who need to know they are not alone. Speaking out against a giant like CR is scary. They need the strength of your words and your calm discerning voice.

    • Matt Mumma

      Mel M, thank you for being so honest with us. I am so sorry to hear about your experience both with your husband and CR. What a tragedy. We truly live in a broken world in desperate need of God’s grace.

      May God continue to use you to proclaim His truth to those around you.

      • Mel M

        Thank you. I hope to one day be a voice of reason within that community. To gain back credibility so that I can defend others who find themselves in similar situations so they are not revictimized by those that are there to help. Not to destroy a ministry that will likely not go away any time soon, but to educate it’s leaders to be able to more easily recognize when they are being deceived.

        I’ve done much research on addictions and the effectiveness on 12 step programs for recovery and the numbers are dismal which makes it all the more surprising that CR is promoted the way it is. The reality is that like I mentioned in another comment, addiction has far less to do with whatever it is you’re addicted to and far more to do with whatever it is you’re trying to cover up. If anyone would, for just a moment, look at the leaders of our particular CR with a lovingly critical eye, it would be immediately obvious that the man that is in charge is not recovered. He has simply traded all his ünhealthy”addictions for the addiction of being in charge of CR. He lives and breathes the program. And on the surface it seems wonderful. He goes into prisons, to the Summits, and everything in between. It is all he does. That is not recovery. Leading a completely unbalanced life, regardless of how “godly”it seems is not recovery. And when he is not doing CR he is at an AA meeting and AA is heavily promoted.

        Healing and recovery come from truly facing, understanding and learning how to cope with what has damaged us. All else is simply covering up, and will never be anything but temporary. We are NOT powerless. The God of the universe gave himself so we could have His strength and Hope.

  • Aseity

    I look forward to reading your two articles

  • Aseity

    I look forward to reading your two articles it’s 3:00am here in Christchurch NZ between the South Pacific and Tasman Sea on an incredibly still & quiet Saturday morning 5/03/2016 a bit of time travel huh?

    “President George W. Bush praised Saddleback Church’s Celebrate Recovery program in early March as a ministry that does what government cannot — change hearts.”

    A? I thought it was God alone whom changes dead sinners hearts?

  • Linda Sindell Robey

    Excellent critique!

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