Sunday, December 26, 2004

A Review of 'Feeding Your Appetites' by Stephen Arterburn and Dr. Debra Cherry

Stephen Arterburn has become a cottage industry. An search yields references to numerous books which he has authored, co-authored, or to which he's made contributions.

The founder of New Life Ministries and host of a daily radio show that focuses on the connection between Christian spiritual insights and psychological issues, I'd always assumed that Arterburn was a counseling psychologist.

It turns out that isn't the case. But often, he enlists counselors to co-author his books.

I'd never read any of Arterburn's work. But at an outlet store recently, I picked up a copy of Feeding Your Appetites: Take Control of What's Controlling You!, which he co-authored with Dr. Debra Cherry, a clinical psychologist.

Frankly, the content of this book would probably better fit a decent two-installment magazine article. But as it's probable that it will reach a wider audience as a book, I suppose that the appearance of it in this form is justifiable.

The basic thesis of the book, with which I agree, is that "every human being has an inborn desire to know God, but our personal and selfish wants get in the way." In essence, Arterburn and Cherry tell us, because we can't see God and because we'd rather not submit to God's dominion over our lives, we allow God-imitators like money, sex, food, work, and ego--things that we delude ourselves into believing we can control--to become the object of our seeking.

Writes Arterburn, who at one time was overwhelmed by what can only be described as an addiction to food:
When I realized that I couldn't get my appetites under control on my own strength, I started down the road to healing. After I surrendered my considerable burdens to the God who created me and admitted that fixing myself was beyond my capabilities, God brought my appetites back under control.
If this sounds like the famed Twelve Steps first developed in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, it should. Arterburn and Cherry say good things about the Twelve Steps and really, commend it as the way to freedom from various addictions. That's appropriate given that AA was spawned under the direct influence of Christian theology. (I've heard one of my favorite preachers, Gerald Mann, say that the Twelve Steps of AA are nothing other than "the Gospel in drag.") The book has an appendix called, "Twelve Steps to Successfully Feeding Your Appetites." In other words, how to replace our hunger for artificial gods with a relationship with the real God.

There's much to commend this book. We all struggle to lead balanced lives and to get free to be our best selves. I suspect that this little volume can help some do that.

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