What is Alcoholics Anonymous and why should we write about it?

by Chad Prigmore
Return to Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is a Twelve-Step program that is used to obtain and maintain sobriety from alcoholism. The organization was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Since its founding, Alcoholics Anonymous has grown dramatically and has members all over the world.

The Twelve Steps used by Alcoholics Anonymous are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Many contemporary Christian Churches promote, endorse, provide facilities for, and refer those suffering from alcoholism or addiction to Alcoholics Anonymous or any of the numerous Twelve Step programs that have been spawned by its teachings. The common assumption among Christians involved with Alcoholics Anonymous or other Twelve Step programs is that AA is Christian in origin, and the Twelve Steps are biblical. But is this assumption correct?

  • 1 John 4:1, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

Because of the prevalence of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps in the modern Church and due to the ‘spiritual’ nature of the AA program, it makes sense to test its teachings in the light of Scripture to see whether it is in agreement with or contrary to Christian biblical doctrine.

To test what is taught by the AA program the best place to start would be the literature on which the program is based. The book Alcoholics Anonymous or “The Big Book” as those in the program affectionately call it lays out the program of AA in its first one hundred and sixty-four pages. A portion of chapter five from this book is usually read at the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings - it is an imperative component of AA. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions is a guidebook used by members of AA to work through each of the Twelve Steps.

As Christians, we understand that God’s word in the Holy Bible is our measure and standard of truth. Therefore, if anything contradicts accurately interpreted scripture, then it must be false from the viewpoint of God’s eternal word. If anything contradicts Christian doctrine - especially essential Christian doctrines such as salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, or the forgiveness of sin through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ - then it would be a false teaching.

So let’s look at two portions of scripture which proclaim essential Christian doctrines and compare them with two excerpts - one from the book Alcoholics Anonymous - and the other from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

  • Acts 4:11,12, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
  • On page 13 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous the claim is made, “There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch. I have not had a drink since.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not by works, lest any man should boast.”
  • On page 34 of the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions the claim is made, “Like all the remaining Steps, Step Three calls for affirmative action, for it is only by action that we can cut away the self-will which has always blocked the entry of God - or, if you like, a Higher Power - into our lives. Faith, to be sure, is necessary, but faith alone can avail nothing. We can have faith, yet keep God out of our lives. Therefore our problem now becomes just how and by what specific means shall we be able to let Him in? Step Three represents our first attempt to do this.”

Based on just the two examples from Alcoholics Anonymous literature shown above, there is clearly direct contradictions between the Christian doctrine of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and what is taught in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. The book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions also contradicts the Christian doctrine of salvation by faith and not by works.

The examples listed off above are just two from hundreds of false teachings put forth by the program of Alcoholics Anonymous that directly contradict essential Christian doctrines. Due to the fact that for so many years AA has been allowed in and even promoted by Christian Churches without ever being held up to the light of scripture, it seems very clear that the time has come to look closely at what Alcoholics Anonymous teaches as well as what damage may be caused by its teachings.

We should write about AA because...

  1. It is common for modern Christian Churches to refer alcoholics and addicts to AA.
  2. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held in many Churches.
  3. AA claims to be a spiritual program.
  4. AA teaches that God is a “Higher Power” or a “God of your own understanding”.
  5. AA teaches that alcoholism is a disease but the Bible clearly identifies it as sin.
  6. AA teaches a salvation message which contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  7. AA proclaims forgiveness of sins through the AA program without the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
  8. Bill Wilson, a co-founder of AA and author of the book Alcoholics Anonymous communed with demonic spirits via a Ouija board.
  9. AA teaches it’s members that sobriety cannot be found in Church.