Bible Basics of Early A.A.
A.A. Cofounder Dr. Bob: “we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book”
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What the Founders Said About the Bible and A.A.
As to Bill Wilson:
For the next three months, I lived with these two wonderful people [Dr. Bob and his wife Anne Smith.] I shall always believe they gave me more than I ever brought them. Each morning there was a devotion. After a long silence, in which they awaited inspiration and
Guidance, Anne would read from the Bible. James was our favorite. . . . This was a favorite quotation of Anne’s, much as the Book of James was a favorite with early AA’s—so much so that “The James Club” was favored by some as a name for the Fellowship. DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 71.
As to Dr. Bob Smith:
To some of us older ones, the parts we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James. The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks, 13.
Dr. Bob was always positive about his faith, Clarence [Snyder] said. If someone asked him a question about the program, his usual response was: “What does it say in the Good Book?” DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 144.
As to Dr. Bob’s Wife Anne, whom Bill Wilson called the “Mother of A.A.” and a “Founder”:
Of course, the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it. Read until some passage comes that “hits” you. Then pause and meditate over its meaning for your life. Begin reading the Bible with the Book of Acts and follow up with the Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John] and then the Epistles of Paul. Let “Revelation” alone for a while. The Psalms ought to be read and the Prophets. Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal: 1933-1939: A.A.’s Principles of Success, 3rd ed., 82.
The Bible was stressed as reading material in the early A.A. recovery program [DR. BOB, 150-51]. And Dr. Bob frequently quoted passages from it. [DR. BOB, 314, 310].
The Original A.A. Program as Summarized in A.A.’s Own Literature
Following his visit to Akron in February 1938, Frank Amos, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s agent, summarized the original Akron A.A. “Program” in seven points. Here are those points, as quoted in Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers, page 131:
- An alcoholic must realize that he is an alcoholic, incurable from a medical viewpoint, and that he must never drink anything with alcohol in it.
- He must surrender himself absolutely to God, realizing that in himself there is no hope.
- Not only must he want to stop drinking permanently, he must remove from his life other sins such as hatred, adultery, and others which frequently accompany alcoholism. Unless he will do this absolutely, Smith and his associates refuse to work with him.
- He must have devotions every morning—a “quiet time” of prayer and some reading from the Bible and other religious literature. Unless this is faithfully followed, there is grave danger of backsliding.
- He must be willing to help other alcoholics get straightened out. This throws up a protective barrier and strengthens his own willpower and convictions.
- It is important, but not vital, that he meet frequently with other reformed alcoholics and form both a social and a religious comradeship.
- Important, but not vital, that he attend some religious service at least once weekly.
We will stick with that original A.A. program founded in 1935 and see what might be the basic ideas from the Bible of which Dr. Bob spoke, particularly when he emphasized the essential Sermon on the Mount, Book of James, and 1
We cannot establish for sure that the following verses were studied with or were the foundation for the Original Program’s required seven points. But we can say that Bob and Bill both mentioned James and the Sermon on the Mount and Corinthians, and that Anne Smith emphasized the Gospels, Acts, Psalms, and the letters after the Book of Acts.
So now, let’s look at the five required elements in that light.
The Five Required Elements in Early Akron A.A.’s Program
Point One: Drunkenness: Not yielding to any temptation to pick up a drink in light of the alcoholic’s experience was that this temptation could result in disaster without fail.
Ephesians 4:21-23: “If so be that he have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Ephesians 5:18: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”
Matthew 6:13 “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. . .”
James 1:13-16: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived. It bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.”
1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pet. 5:8.
Point Two: Surrender Absolutely to God, realizing that in yourself there is no hope—giving rise to the requirement that each man profess belief in God and then come to Him through Jesus Christ:
James 4:7: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
James 4:10: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
Mark 12:29: “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Ephesians 2:12:-13: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope .and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
Acts 2: 38-39: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven whereby we must be saved.”
Point Three: Remove from your life other sins, such as hatred and adultery—in light of the fact that the new Christian is out of fellowship with God and walking by the flesh when, at the same time, he seeks God, and yet does those things which God has said are evil.
Matthew 7:11-12: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men do to you, do ye even to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 7:18-20: A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits shall ye know them.”
James 5:16: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
James 4:8: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
James 1:8: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
James 4:3-4: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Matthew 6:24: ”No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
1 John 3:15: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
1 John 1:8-10: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Point Four: Must have devotions every morning—a Quiet Time with prayer and reading from the Bible and other religious literature—in light of the fact that these are the spiritual tools that will lead man to know God’s will, to know what he commands, and to communicate with Him and glorify Him.
Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
1 Samuel 3:9: “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
Acts 22:10: “What shall I do, Lord?”
Luke 22:42: “. . . [N]evertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
Psalm: 32:8: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. I will guide thee with mine eye.
2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, and not by sight.”
Psalm 5:3: “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”
James 5:15: “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God. . . .”
John 5:39: “Search the scriptures. . .”
2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Point Five: Willing to help other alcoholics get straightened out—in light of the fact that both Bob and Bill had learned the importance of service and God’s will that all men be saved and learn the truth which would make them free:
1 Timothy 2:3-4: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who
will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the truth.”
Matthew 28:19-20: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations. . . . Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
Mark 16:15: “And he said unto them, Go ye into the all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Acts 26:22-23: “Having therefore obtained the help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come. That Christ should suffer and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people and the Gentiles.”
John 16:24: “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name, ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”