It is a fearful thing, leaving AA. The Big Book (the AA “bible”) states, “We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not.” Because this passage of AA “scripture” is taken literally, alcoholics rarely look elsewhere for help. Christians continue to jam their God, the Ancient of Days, into AA’s chameleon theology.
“Do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11-12)
It is not just fear that keeps us bound to this all-gods religion. The 12 Step experience becomes an idol–long term involvement almost always results in a transference of faith. Bluntly stated, when it comes to sobriety, many Christians end up with more faith in the power of the 12 Step program than in Jesus Christ.
This transference of faith is subtle, gradual, and frequently inevitable. The result is that sobriety without the 12 Step program will not even be considered. Biblical wisdom, given by concerned and caring believers, is rejected.
This idol worship is by no means limited to those in AA, but applies to many in “Christian 12 Step” groups.
For many years Christians have justified their involvement by pointing to numerous books that claim AA and the 12 Steps are Christian in origin. If this is true, then obviously AA’s cofounders had to have been Christians. Indeed, this belief is also a primary rationalization for remaining in the AA religion.
Did AA cofounders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith follow Christ? Many believe Dr. Bob to have been a student of the Word and dedicated to the Faith. To a great degree this assumption stems from the writing of Dick B., author of ‘Anne Smith’s Journal,’ and numerous other works.
Dr. Bob certainly did read the Bible. Yet, as Susan Cheever states, “Bob began every morning with meditation and prayer and twenty minutes of Bible study. Like Bill, Bob believed in paranormal possibility and the two men spent time ‘spooking,’ invoking spirits of the dead.”
Early AA member Tom Powers saw the AA cofounders firsthand as they engaged in spiritualistic practices the Lord detests. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) “Now, these people, Bill and Bob, believed vigorously and aggressively. They were working away at the spiritualism; it was not just a hobby.”
It is not well known that Dr. Bob was a Mason. Suspended in 1934, he gained reinstatement after being sober for some years. According to John Weldon, “The truth is that Masonry is a distinct religion that espouses teachings incompatible with Christian faith in the areas of God, salvation, and other important doctrines.”
Interestingly, the description of the Mason god, the Great Architect, is similar to the higher power worshiped in Alcoholics Anonymous. Masonic researcher Carl H. Claudy notes, “Masonry does not specify any god or creed; she requires merely that you believe in some Deity, give him what name you will…. A belief in God is essential to a Mason but…any God will do…”
Alcoholics Anonymous teaches the “higher power” could be a doorknob, a spirit, a fruit salad, the universe, the Dallas Cowboys (when they are winning), a new age version of Jesus, or anything else. Like the Masons, it doesn’t matter what god you believe in-only that you believe in something.
It seems that someone as allegedly devout and well versed in the Bible as Dr. Bob would stay far away from spiritualism and the Masonic organization. He most emphatically did not. Equally perplexing is Dr. Bob’s enthusiasm for Emmet Fox’s sweet-sounding but heretical book, ‘The Sermon on the Mount.’
This is no minor point, since this book denies that Jesus Christ is Savior. The book was used as a teaching tool by Alcoholics Anonymous before the Big Book was written. In ‘The Sermon on the Mount,’ author Emmet Fox states there is no such thing as original sin; that the account of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden is not intended as literal history; he did not believe that Jesus walked on the water as the Biblical God. He writes, “The ‘Plan of Salvation’ which figured so prominently in the evangelical sermons of a past generation is as completely unknown to the Bible as it is to the Koran.”
Fox instructs, “In the Bible the term ‘Christ’ is not identical with Jesus, the individual. It is a technical term that may be briefly defined as the Absolute Spiritual Truth about anything.” Clearly Emmet Fox, dead for decades, would have made an ideal guest on one of Oprah Winfrey’s New Spirituality shows.
Fox was an eloquent adherent of the New Thought religion. This belief system teaches that our thoughts determine our reality, and that we too can learn to tap into the same divine power that Jesus the man harnessed.
As scholars Anderson and Whitehouse note, “New Thoughters are fond of such affirmations as… ‘The Christ in me salutes the Christ in you.’ Rather than viewing Jesus as the first and last member of the Christ family, many New Thoughters believe that Christ is a title that we can all earn by following Jesus’ example.”
‘The Sermon on the Mount’ is based on Fox’s heretical interpretation of Scripture. So why would Bible-believing Christians have anything to do with such a book? Would a Christian cofounder of AA really participate in using it as a teaching tool? Or place such heresy in the hands of another alcoholic? AA cofounder Dr. Bob Smith did just this.
In a recorded 1954 interview, early AA member Dorothy S.M. reminisced, “The first thing Bob did was get me Emmet Fox’s ‘Sermon on the Mount.’” Dorothy then recalled how it went with the alcoholics who wanted help: “As soon as the men in the hospital, as soon as their eyes could focus, they got to ‘The Sermon on the Mount.’”
Archie T., the founder of Detroit AA, stayed with Dr. Bob and Anne Smith for more than ten months. He became sober in September of 1938. Archie T. recollected, “In Akron I was turned over to Dr. Bob and his wife. …I spent Labor Day in the hospital reading Emmet Fox’s ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ and it changed my life.”
Documenting the AA history of Archie T., Detroit Archivist Cliff M. verifies, “He says he got his AA direct from one of the founders. Archie read Emmet Fox’s ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ and he said it changed his life.”
It is interesting that, after many months with the Smiths, having “got his AA direct from one of the founders,” Archie T. emerged not as a Bible believing Christian, but in agreement with Emmet Fox’s New Thought theology.
Was Dr. Bob a Bible believing Christian? The Bible says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3)
Some have tried to explain early AA’s enthusiasm for various New Thought books simply because the people were, well, voracious readers. But Emmet Fox’s ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ was used to teach.
People who believe along New Thought lines often read genuinely Christian literature, as well as the Bible. They simply filter, or interpret, according to their New Thought understanding. Emmet Fox himself had no objection to his followers reading diverse spiritual books, or attending churches, or listening to speakers if it proved helpful. He warned, however, that loyalty should be to one’s own “Indwelling Christ.”
This theological “filtering” may well be what Dr. Bob himself did as he read the Bible and Christian literature. Like Emmet Fox and others, Dr. Bob may simply have interpreted the Bible through a New Thought understanding, or variant thereof. Fox valued the Bible, calling it “an inexhaustible reservoir of Spiritual Truth.” Dr. Bob valued it as well.
Such esoteric interpretation of the Bible-while denying the Salvation of Christ-is not confined to New Thought; it is practiced by Unity, and the Swedenborgians, each with their own anti-Biblical understanding of the Word of God.
Dr. Bob’s pursuit of spiritualism, Masonic membership, and promotion of Fox’s heretical book do not seem indicative of a deep, Bible-believing faith. Certainly he spoke highly of the Bible. But a New Thoughter who gives Jesus verbal accolades or discusses Scripture can sound quite similar to a born again Christian.
After reading the Emmet Fox book, I emailed the following question to Mel B., author of the well-researched ‘New Wine.’ Mel B. is an authority on Emmet Fox and a man who personally knew Bill Wilson:
“Hey Mel, I’ve been reading Fox’s ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ and what he is saying (I think) was that Jesus is just a man who understood the principle laid out in the book and had power through them. He says “Christ” is not Jesus but a title (for Absolute Spiritual Truth.) So I am inclined to think that Dr. Bob, both when he referred to the Bible, and when he spoke of Jesus, saw things along the lines of what Fox taught. Do you think this is possible?”
Mel emailed this reply:
“Hi John, Yes, I think Dr. Bob thought that way about Jesus. Bill certainly did. In my view, this takes nothing away from Jesus and makes his teaching more relevant. Dr. Bob also emphasized The Sermon On The Mount, 1 Corinthians 13, and the Book of James as being particularly important to us.”
Important as general spiritual principles, perhaps, but not as words from the God of the Bible.
Author Glen C. notes that Dr. Bob’s AA homegroup (roughly between 1939-1940) emphasized the following passages in the Bible: ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5-7), the letter of James, 1 Corinthians 13, and Psalms 23 and 91. These “were especially useful for AA purposes because none of them required the newcomer to believe in the divinity of Christ or that Salvation could be found only by praying to Jesus.” (Emphasis mine)
Some years ago Dick B., after convincing thousands that AA’s 12 Steps are Christian in origin, wrote, “You may, as I did for quite some time, fail to appreciate or study the effect on AA ‘theology’ of the ideas of William James, Ralph Waldo Trine, Emmet Fox, and others.”
Having admitted Emmet Fox’s heretical influence, this author should not have written one more book about AA’s alleged Christian origin.
One of Dick B.’s more recent books is ‘The Conversion of Bill W.,’ a sadly misleading title considering everything AA cofounder Bill Wilson was involved in. In experiments in the 1950s, hoping alcoholics could be helped by LSD, Bill Wilson stated, “It is a generally acknowledged fact in spiritual development that ego reduction makes the influx of God’s grace possible. If, therefore, under LSD we can have a temporary reduction, so we can better see where we are going-well, that might be of some help. The goal might become clearer.”
Call me legalistic, but LSD to facilitate “the influx of God’s grace” doesn’t sound all that Biblical.
Wilson’s explanation for choosing the triangle within the circle as AA’s symbol is equally pagan. In ‘Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age,’ he writes, “That we have chosen this symbol is perhaps no mere accident. The priests and seers of antiquity regarded the circle enclosing the triangle as a means of warding off spirits of evil, and AA’s circle of Recovery, Unity, and Service has certainly meant all that to us and much more.”
He also “felt it would be unwise to have an allegiance to any one religious sect. He felt AA’s usefulness was worldwide, and contained spiritual principles that members of any and every religion could accept, including the Eastern religions.”
Somewhere, somehow, we must examine the 12 Step program in light of Scripture. We must take Paul’s admonitions about a false gospel seriously. (Galatians 1:6-9) We are being offered a wonderful mission field, if only we can understand neither AA nor the 12 Steps are from Jesus Christ.
It is also time we stop accepting that one or both AA cofounders were Christians. Clearly, they were not.
1. Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition, pg. 58
2. Susan Cheever, My Name Is Bill, pg. 197
3. PASS IT ON, A.A. World Services Inc., pg. 280
4. Cedric L. Smith, PGM, Grand Secretary of Masons in Vermont
5. John Weldon, The Masonic Lodge and the Christian Conscience, CRI DM 166, pg. 1
6. Carl H. Claudy, ‘Belief in God,’ in ‘A Master’s Wages’ in Little Masonic Library vol.4
7. DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, A.A. World Services Inc., pg. 310-311
8. Emmet Fox, The Sermon on the Mount, pg. 5-6
9. Ibid., pg. 124
10. C. Alan Anderson and Deborah G. Whitehead, New Thought and Conventional Christianity http://www.gis.net/~caa/church.html
11. 1954 excerpts of conversation between Bill W. and Dorothy S.M. http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/en-pdfs/f-151_markings_spring_06.pdf
14. AA General Services of Southeast Michigan-Area 33, A Brief History of A.A. in Detroit-by Cliff M. (Past Archivist)
15. Emmet Fox, ‘The Sermon on the Mount,’ pg. 149
16. Ibid., pg. 12
17. email to Mel B. 3/14/08
18. email from Mel B.
19. Glen C., justloveaudio.com/resources/assorted/Akron-Recommended_Reading _List_1939_Or_1940
20. The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous: Part 2, DickB.com
21. PASS IT ON, AA World Services Inc., pg. 370
22. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, A.A. World Services Inc., pg. 139
23. PASS IT ON, A.A. World Services Inc., pg. 283