Thursday, March 07, 2013

Salvation, Sanity, Sobriety and Helping other AAs

Originally, Alcoholics Anonymous was a Christian Fellowship. Dr. Bob said so. And a recent A.A. publication "Marking: Your Archives Interchange" also said so. The last major talks of our two co-founders make that clear in The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks (General Service Conference-approved Pamphlet P-53), at pages 13, 14, 30.
On page 30, in his last major talk, Bill Wilson is quoted as saying about Dr. Bob:" He reminded us that most of us were practicing Christians. Then he asked, 'What would the Master have thought?'"

In short, the standards for salvation, sanity, sobriety, and helping others were those of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, every early A.A. was required to profess a belief in God--Almighty God, the Creator. Every early A.A. was required to establish his relationship with God by accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior (it was called their "real surrender").

Let me digress and quote a comment I recently put on Facebook in answer to a man who thought, today, that he could believe in whatever he wished:

"I have been delighted with the interaction with those posting. I have no interest in controversy. But I do put forth facts--particularly those that come from A.A. history or A.A. Conference-approved literature--to the end that our fellowship will be blessed to see what A.A. is, was, and can be. But this all starts with the fact that A.A. is what it is!
Thus I quoted Dr. Bob's statement on page 144... of "DR. BOB and the Good-Oldimers" about Matthew 6:33--Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . ." Dr. Bob explained to Clarence Snyder that the slogan "First things First" came directly from this verse in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7).
More on the posts in a moment. But that information reflects what A.A. itself recently published--that early A.A. was "a Christian fellowship" ("DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers," 118) with a Christian perspective that was founded on attaining sobriety with needed belief in God and coming to Him through Jesus Christ.

Things have changed in A.A. publications; and the beliefs and unbeliefs of fellowship members today vary widely. But that fact neither makes history irrelevant nor a mandate to believe something or nothing at all. Rob's statement about what people call God needs to be viewed in that way. More to come."

People came to early Christian AA not because they were Christians nor because they thought it was a church. They came because they had hit their bottom when it came to booze. They were licked. Their lives were in shambles. They asked God to manage their lives. And they didn't want to be drunkards any longer. They were tired of the misery that excessive, uncontrolled drinking had brought into their lives.

Fortunately, for those who were already Christians, the inebrietes grabbed the welcoming hand of Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (Dr. Bob) who qualified them as being drunkards, as being serious about quitting, and as being willing to go to any lengths to end the misery that accompanied alcoholism. That done, Dr. Bob hospitalized them--every one. He sedated them to avoid seizures, DT's and death. He spent hours talking to each one in the hospital. The only literature in the room was a Bible. And Dr. Bob read that Bible to each new person almost every single day. At the end of this detoxing period, Bob made sure that each believed in God. When he received that assurance, he required each patient to get out of bed, get down on his knees, and pray with Dr. Bob. In that prayer, each accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Then Dr. Bob handed the man a Bible and told him to go out and help others!
Some would say: Mission accomplished. The drunks were dry. The drunks had not died in the hospital. The drunks had been visited by other successful alkies. The drunks were exposed daily to the talk and teaching of a man who had spent the first years of his life as a young man going to church and Sunday school, being taught the Bible and about salvation, going to old fashioned prayer meetings, participating in the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor and in the Young Men's Christian Association--of which Dr. Bob's father was President in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Dr. Bob had been so immersed in Bible training that he himself said he had had excellent training in that as a youngster. And Bob's fellow scholars at St. Johnsbury Academy frequently called him "Rev. Robert H. Smith" (See Dick B. and Ken B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 52, footnote 132.)
Dr. Bob taught the drunks from the Bible that God was a loving God, a healing God, and a forgiving God. At the close of his personal story on page 181 of the 4th edition of the Big Book, he wrote: "Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!" But again: Note that the drunks were dry. They had renounced liquor. They had stopped drinking. Some might call that sobriety. All could say that they were sober.
Bill Wilson pointed to two other victories: (1) First, in the Big Book, he talked about living in conscioius contact with the Creator. He said God had restored the drunk to sanity. He called this "a miractle of healing." He pointed out that the drunk "humbly offered himself to His Maker--then he knew." Bill added: "Even so has Gd restored us all to our right minds." (Big Book, 4th ed., pages 56-57). On page 25 of the Big Book, Bill pointed out that AAs could now say: "There is a solution." The solution was the "great fact, and nothing less." The fact was, said Bill, that we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows, and toward God's universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous." And, in the First Edition of the Big Book, Bill and Bob had included 29 personal stories that showed exactly how that had happened as the result of thoroughly following the path laid out in the Akron program. See Dick B. and Ken B., "Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: God's Role in Recovery Confirmed!: (
So the alcoholics were dry, had renounced liquor, stopped drinking, and could say they were sober. But they also could say that a miracle had occurred which proved that God had restored them to sanity. And 2 Timothy 1:7 of their King James Bibles told them part of the miracle: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." A sound mind. A sane thinking mind. A sound mind emanating from the power and love of the Creator.
So they were sober. They were sane. But they grounded their lives on their undeniable relationship with God. They had become born again. They said so. See Dick B., The Golden Text of A.A.: God, the Pioneers, and Real Spirituality, pp. 31-32. Both Bill W. and A.A. Number Three said that "the Lord" had cured them." See Big Book, 4th ed., page 191. They frequently quoted 2 Corinthians 5:17--"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new." And I personally heard the well known A.A. speaker "Eve", who was from the New York A.A. office, quote 1 John 2:1-2: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. . . Beloved, now are we the sons of God. . ."
The third point here is the one that explains for those who want to see their own history, listen to teaching about it, and recognize differences
Early A.A. required salvation, the new birth, a new creation as a son of God. The result for those who chose to stand on the Word of God was the miraculous healing came as part of their salvation. Thus, in Acts 4:9-12, the Apostle Peter explained the miraculous healing of the man lame from birth. Peter declared:
"If we this day be examined of the good deed done to this impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. . . . Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
The reader should, by now, begin to understand how some AAs (both those who are Christians and those who are not) mix up three different ideas in describing what happens to those who believe in God, are or become Christians, and stand on the name of Jesus Christ as the means for healing them.
A.A. today is not a Christian Fellowship. But it has tens of thousands of practicing born again Christians who regularly participate in its fellowship, its meetings, and its program. They do so by right. They do so by prayer and Bible study. They do so as the early AAs did. Not always, but as a right they may choose. They have attained salvation. They call on the name of Jesus Christ for deliverance. And they are made whole.
On the other hand, as early as 1939, Bill Wilson and his committee of four not only changed Bill's "new version of the program" which he embodied in the Twelve Steps and the Big Book; Bill Wilson deleted the word God from the pending Steps Two, Three, and Eleven. He said this was at the suggestion of remonstrating atheists and agnostics. And the doors were eventually opened to non-Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, humanists, atheists, and those who chose to believe in nothing at all.
For these, then, the word "sober" is certainly applicable to them if they have stopped drinking for good and even though they are neither Christian, nor believers in any variety of deity, or at all. They certainly can declare that they are alcoholic, that they have recovered by following the Big Book program, and that they have solid, sane thinking when it comes to resisting drink and destructive behavior. The problem arises between them and A.A. Christians only when they have never heard or don't believe the facts about Christians, about early A.A.' s Christian Fellowship, and the everlasting life and transformation which is available to Christians today empowering them to pray for the sick and see the Lord raise him up (See James 5:13-15) and also bring about the deliverance described in James 5:19-20:
"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
And, as is declared in 1 John 5:4-5: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the son of God."
Salvation, sanity, and sobriety was the platform of early A.A.; and it was used consistently to help others get well and stay well and blessed if those others chose also to work as well at what is today called "sanctification," "holiness," or renewing of the mind (See Romans 12:1-2).
Sanity and sobriety alone might be described as Bill W. may have described them: (1) "If he is to find God, the desire must come from within. If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spiritual approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience. We have monopoly on God; we merely have an approach that worked with us." (Big Book, 4th ed., p. 95). (2) "We think it no concern of ours what religious bodies our members identify themselves with as individuals. This should be an entirely personal affair. . . . Not all of us join religious bodies, but most of us favor such memberships" (p. 28). (3) "Most of us sense that real tolerance of other people's shortcomings and viewpoints and a respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us more useful to others. Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs." (pp. 19-20).
The last paragraph can possibly describe A.A. as it is today. It has lots of Christians. It has lots of others. It is not the old school Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship of yester-year. Christians can and do join what they wish to join; and they certainly should not be insulted, restrained, or ejected by the others.

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