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shelves logo bw.jpg (10022 bytes)On the Shelves

On the Shelves features book recommendations from a variety of Princeton Seminary faculty and staff, with the hope that these suggestions will help alumni/ae choose books that contribute to their personal and professional growth.

From Abigail Rian Evans, associate professor of practical theology and academic coordinator of field education

Victims and Sinners: Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, by Linda A. Mercadante (’86D): Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996. In the last several decades, the use of the word sin in relation to addiction is almost forbidden in theological circles. Since the medical model for addiction has been widely embraced and the Twelve-step approach of Alcoholics Anonymous so uniformly successful, the church by and large has been relegated to a supportive or judgmental role. Mercadante puts the topic of addiction (most specifically alcoholism) back onto the theological agenda by arguing that addictive behavior is more accurately and helpfully described as sin. (However, a less moralistic and judgmental definition of sin than is typical is offered, and the stereotypes of both concepts are eschewed.)

What she is advocating is averting a medicalization of all human behavior and avoiding the false dichotomy of an analysis of the human predicament as either a failure of will or a responsibility-free disease model. Mercadante puts forth a full-bodied definition of sin that does justice to the reality of the human predicament and avoids the conceptual confusions that she argues are a result of the current addiction model. It is only as we understand our problems as rooted in sin that we can experience complete restoration through God’s grace and the church can take its rightful place in helping those in the throes of addiction. What is less clear, however, is if the substitution of terms would in fact change the treatment of addiction. In summary, this is a landmark book for anyone in the addiction field, especially those with a theological bent.

Spiritual Aspects of Health Care, by David Stoter. London, England: Mosby Press, 1995. This book, written by an experienced hospital chaplain in England, provides timely guidance for health care professionals concerning spiritual needs and care at a time when spirituality is entering the mainstream of medical practice and education. This is not a closely argued, academic text (there are some footnote errors), but still it is charting new territory. The author demonstrates sensitivity toward religious and moral plurality, which is essential in working with diverse patient populations. The concept of spirituality is distinguished from that of religion. Several definitions of spirituality are combined. Stoter describes it as a unifying force that integrates and transcends the physical, emotional, and social dimensions of human experience. The needs of caregivers are also included in his paradigm for spiritual care. Their belief systems are acknowledged while Stoter cautions against imposing those belief systems on others.

This is a very practical book that is best used in a continuing education setting for health care professionals who are just beginning to reflect on the need for spiritual care. It is probably not for those experienced in this field. The writing is clear and accessible, and the book lends itself to group use as well as to individual reflection. Each section is accompanied by “exercises” that an individual or a group can do.

Copyright 1998 Princeton Theological Seminary
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