Does "Bill's Story" in Alcoholics Anonymous line up with the Biblical message of Salvation?
By Chad Prigmore
The book Alcoholics Anonymous or The Big Book as it is affectionately called by members of Alcoholics Anonymous includes the story of how Bill Wilson the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous achieved sobriety. Bill's Story begins on page one of the Big Book and on page eight we read of the terrible condition that Bill had been brought to because of alcohol abuse, "No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master." I'm sure anyone - including myself, who has experienced the relentless hold of alcoholic bondage can relate to what Bill had experienced.
Also on page eight Bill looks back in retrospect on the change he would soon be experiencing, "I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes." So, after all the suffering that Bill had gone through, and his seemingly hopeless condition - some type of event took place that apparently changed him for the better and enabled him to stay sober.
One of the few references to Christ in the Big Book is part of Bill's Story prior to his sobriety on page eleven, "To Christ I conceded the certainty of a great man, not too closely followed by those who claimed Him. His moral teaching - most excellent. For myself, I had adopted those parts which seemed convenient and not too difficult; the rest I disregarded."
In the next paragraph, after expressing his disdain for the religions of mankind and stating that "the power of God in human affairs was negligible,...", Bill makes what is a very interesting statement when we consider that God tempts no-one as stated in James 1:13, Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. The statement Bill makes is that "If there was a Devil, he seemed the Boss Universal, and he certainly had me." The intrigue of this statement by Bill Wilson will become clear further on.
Bill had written the preceding statements while reflecting in his story on a visit he had from an old drinking buddy who had apparently been able to achieve a measure of sobriety. He attributed his sobriety by claiming to Bill that, "I've got religion."
Upon hearing of Bill's prejudices to religion and God his friend asked, "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?" Now, this may sound like a good idea to present to someone who is rejecting God. However, from a Biblical standpoint this is idolatry because at this point Bill can choose to make up any idea or concept that he can possibly imagine to be his own personal God. To worship anything or anyone - even a concept or idea as a god is idolatry. The one true God of the Bible tells us very clearly in His Word who He is and became incarnate in the flesh as Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Isaiah 42:8, I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other...
John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
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.
Now, you may be thinking, "Maybe Bill started off with a God of his own understanding in order to get some sobriety, get his head clear, and then he probably came to know the one true God of scripture eventually." You will be interested to know that Bill so much believed in this idolatrous concept of creating a god of one's own understanding that he made it step three of the twelve step program of Alcoholics Anonymous which reads: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
After Bill's friend asked him, "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?" Bill writes that,
"It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning. I saw that growth could start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend. Would I have it? Of course I would!
Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.
There are some glaring issues in the above quote that should raise red flags in Christian minds. First of all, "a Power greater than myself" could be anything as already discussed. Also, "Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build" and, "...God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough"leans very heavily toward a self centered works based religion. The Bible teaches us that we are saved by no power of our own whatsoever, but only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
At this point you may be saying, "So Bill Wilson got sober through a belief in his own conception of God. Where does he claim salvation and what does this have to do with salvation as understood through the teachings of scripture?" Let's look at another excerpt from Bill's story in which he writes, "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."
Bill's story claims more than just success in achieving sobriety. Bill claims to have achieved salvation by having his sins taken away by a god of his own understanding - that is a false gospel. Bill claims that god, as he "Understood Him", his "new-found Friend" was taking his sins away. This is a message of heresy in direct contradiction of the true gospel message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
So just what "god" was Bill experiencing? Consider once again James 1:13 that I mentioned earlier: Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. Now consider how effective it would be for Satan who had obviously been successful in tempting Bill through alcohol for years, to convince Bill that he could trust in his "own conception of god" and as Bill did so Satan simply stopped tempting Bill with the desire to drink. By doing so, Satan provides a false validation of a false god through Bill's successful sobriety, while at the same time achieving his real goal which is Bill's rejection of the one true God of the Bible and the one true gospel message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The end result being Bill's eternal destruction and the creation of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps which have led millions down the same path of destruction by giving them sobriety but at the terrible cost of a false sense of salvation.
1 Timothy 4:1, Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
Galatians 1:8-9, But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
1 Peter 5:8, Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
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Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way R122 Ministry USA & Kenya.