On page 18 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous we read, "An illness of this sort - and we have come to believe it an illness - involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can." But is alcoholism really an illness or disease? To answer this question I will address it strictly from a Christian perspective and go directly to the scriptures.
Luke 21:34-35, But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.
For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
Romans 13:13-14, Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Galatians 5:19-21, Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God
It is quite clear in God's Word that drunkenness is a sin and not a disease. But is this false teaching by Alcoholics Anonymous really that big of a deal? Is it really hurting people to convince them they have a disease in order to inspire them to work harder at the program because of the fear produced by the false belief that if you don't work the program you will probably die? If it helps an alcoholic to believe they suffer from a disease for which there is no cure, but only a daily reprieve as the book Alcoholics Anonymous claims on page 85, "We are not cured of Alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." Is that a bad thing if they are able to get sober and get their life back together? Of course it's a bad thing. Anything that is based on a lie and especially if it directly contradicts God's Word is a very bad thing - in fact this lie can be eternally fatal.
The problem is by convincing someone suffering in the sin of alcoholism that they have a disease almost instantly removes much of the feeling of guilt associated with the sin. But more importantly it moves them away from the vital need to experience the conviction of sin which leads to repentance. I can tell you this is exactly what can and usually does happen because it is what my own personal experience was. When I was told that I drank and used because I was an alcoholic with a disease and that's what people with that disease do, I still vividly remember feeling a sense of relief from guilt and remorse - and that was about twenty three years ago. It took me about thirteen years after that experience to finally start waking up by God's grace to the truth that I was not sick, I did not have a disease - I was a sinner. I had been lied to and suckered into working a ridiculous program day after day, going to meetings day after day, and talking to clueless misled sponsors day after day for over thirteen years - so pathetic!
I never needed to work a program, go to meetings, get a sponsor, maintain sobriety so that I could have a daily reprieve from an incurable disease - that was all time spent brainwashed by lies. I needed to repent and turn away from the sin that was killing me through drugs and alcohol and throw myself into the loving arms of Jesus Christ who is the only one that can save anyone from the wages of sin which is death. I needed to experience grief, guilt, and conviction of sin in order to come to the only truth of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
2 Corinthians 7:10, For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Acts 4:12, 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.
Disciples of Alcoholics Anonymous often tell frightened and angry newcomers, "Don't leave before the miracle happens". I can tell you from experience that the only miracle that happens in Alcoholics Anonymous is when the Lord wakes you up and you leave that apostate program in the dust and follow Jesus.
Matthew 8:22, And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way Ministry Church USA & Kenya.