AA - Comparing the Big Book to the Good Book

Alcoholics Anonymous calls their book of the same name, “The Big Book.” This is the basic text for their society and it is referred to as the “book of experience.” It shares with members the steps to their recovery program and personal stories of the experiences of its members. Many Christians support and condone these 12 steps programs but a closer look reveals that groups like AA actually function in conflict with Scripture. Below are reasons why “The Big Book” cannot be used in conjunction with “The Book”, the Holy Bible.

First we must remember that psychology is man’s attempt to solve spiritual problems. Any attempt to excuse, justify or label behavior is an attempt to cover up sin. God’s Word is clear, certain behaviors are sinful, not diseases.

Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Alcoholics Anonymous does just that: they claim that alcoholism is a disease. Talking about their solution for the alcoholic “The Big Book” says:

"This is the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism. 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."1

The AA book does more than just label alcoholism a disease though. They leave people with the impression that their program is the only solution because no one can understand an “alcoholic” except another “alcoholic.” That does not mean, however, that any other person who had a drinking problem can understand them, only those who buy into the their theory of alcoholism. If you quit drinking in any other way, shape, or form they will say you were never a “real alcoholic” to begin with. Therefore, anyone who quit drinking and no longer considers themselves alcoholics for life and who no longer struggle with the desire to drink were never what AA calls an “alcoholic.” So, when a true Christian tries to help a friend in AA by sharing with them that they can be free from this “sin” forever, “The Big Book” tells them those people do not understand their problem because they were not a “real alcoholic” and therefore cannot relate or offer real advice. The AA Book separates drinkers this way:

"Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it alone.

Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention.

But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.

Perhaps there never will be a full answer to these questions. Opinions vary considerably as to why the alcoholic reacts differently from normal people. We are not sure why, once a certain point is reached, little can be done for him. We cannot answer the riddle." ."1

They even tell you that no one else can understand you or help you.

"Highly competent psychiatrists who have dealt with us have found it sometimes impossible to persuade an alcoholic to discuss his situation without reserve. Strangely enough, wives, parents and intimate friends usually find us even more unapproachable than do the psychiatrist and the doctor."1

Then, however, they tell you that what their solution is. They admit that they could never do this alone, but that is their creator who comes into their heart and makes it happen. This is the reason that most Christians embrace AA. The book says:

"There is a solution…The great fact is just this, and nothing less: 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. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.

If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This we did because we honestly wanted to, and were willing to make the effort. "1

Since AA claims that without God there is no recovery, does that make their philosophy Christian? It certainly does not. First of all, we know that they speak of God in a general sense. In their 12 steps they call God their “Higher Power” because they do not feel that it necessary to believe in only the God of the Bible. Alcoholics Anonymous teaches that any god will do.

"If what we have learned and felt and seen means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever our race, creed, or color are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try. Those having religious affiliations will find here nothing disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such matters.

We think it no concern of ours what religious bodies our members identify themselves with as individuals. this should be an entirely personal affair which each one decides for himself in the light of past associations, or his present choice. Not all of us join religious bodies, but most of us favor such memberships. "1

The founder of AA, Bill Wilson, had trouble believing in God himself, until his friend suggested that he make up his own conception of God. It was only then, that Bill was able to believe in God. The first chapter of “The Big Book” has Bill’s story. In it he shares how he came to believe in his “God-consciousness within.”

"The word God still aroused a certain antipathy. When the thought was expressed that there might be a God personal to me this feeling was intensified. I didn't like the idea. I could go for such conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be. I have since talked with scores of men who felt the same way.

My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?"

That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last.

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." ."2

Believing in your own conception of God is certainly not Scriptural. Never does AA suggest that their god is the God of the Bible and they offer no Scriptural basis for their beliefs, methods, and practices. They simply “believe” in a higher power. Any higher power will do! How can Christians embrace a teaching that says you can worship the god of your own making? To try and say that a Christian can use this program and simply believe in the God of the Bible as their Higher Power are sadly ignorant of the Scriptures. Scripture is clear that there is one God and we are not to walk in the counsel of the wicked and it IS wicked to teach that you can make up your own God!

Ps 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night

Ex 34:14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

What we find with the 12 step program is a theory of man that wants to hold to the idea that alcoholism is a disease and yet claim somehow that it can be cured through spiritual means. This idea not only contradicts Scripture, it contradicts itself. It is either a disease (which implies a physical problem) and can be cured physically or it is a spiritual issue (a sin) and can only be cured by obedience to God. To imply that you need spirituality to cure a sickness is quite frankly a lie. Who has ever cured a cold, the flu, an ear infection, or any “disease” by becoming spiritual? And that same reasoning holds true in reverse; sin will not be cured by medicine. Man often attempts to, but instead of curing the problem the medicine only anesthetizes them from noticing the spiritual implications of their behavior. It may correct a symptom, but it cannot get to the root of the problem, which is sinful behavior.

Drunkenness is not a disease called alcoholism. The Bible does not make a distinction between different types of “drinkers.” We are told not to be “drunk” and anyone who does so is sinning. Along with Galatians 5:19-21 that we quoted above, there are many other passages that tell us drunkenness is a sin. We are told simply not to get drunk, but rather we should behave decently. This is a choice that we all can make. There is no chemical reaction in our bodies that makes us incapable of obeying the Lord. There is, however, a spiritual condition that stops us from doing so. Our sinful nature will make us want to rebel, and the only cure for that is to truly be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ. If a person is saved, they can and will be able to control their behavior. They will not only be able to, they will desire to. Scripture is clear that drunkenness is sin and we as Christians can simply choose to be sober.

Eph 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit

Rom 13:13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.

1 Cor 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

1 Cor 5:11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

The argument I most often hear is “but it works.” In the AA book Bill Wilson tells us the reaction of his friend, who is a doctor, to his new found sobriety. Many people share this same sentiment.

"For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonder as I talked. Finally he shook his head saying, 'Something has happened to you I don't understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were'."1

When you see the condition of many addicts you might say the same thing, well anything must be better than the way they were. But I ask you this, what does it profit a man to gain his sobriety and lose his soul? Jesus asked a similar question. He tells us that we must give up self and follow Him. It does not tell us to give up one sin, to clean up one part of our life, because anything is better than the way we used to be. No, whoever “saves his life” is going to lose it.

Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

I ask again, what good is it if a man gains his sobriety and forfeits his soul? Psychology teaches us that we must look at each problem of our behavior and try to fix it so that we can finally become a “whole” person. But that is man trying to reach perfection! That will never be done because we have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). We need to realize that we are not alcoholics in need of sobriety; we are sinners in need of God. We will never find God by trying to clean up our sinful behavior one piece at a time. This is the wrong method to find true Biblical healing. A Christian does not keep their old clothes and simply sew new patches of unshrunk cloth on them, patching them up as they cleanse each sin. If they were to do that their clothes would be worse off with the patch, not better! Look at what Jesus said:

Matt 9:16 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

What we need is a new outfit! When we replace, rather than patch, the outfit then ALL of the tears are taken care of at once. They were discarded and traded in for a new set of clothes, we no longer need to repair ourselves section by section, we are now completely whole. This can only be done through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must take off our entire sinful self (not simply one sin) and put on Christ. When we do that we are not to worry ourselves with the old clothes again. The old is now gone forever, replaced by the new that has come!

Rom 13:13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Eph 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

While AA has good intentions, they are based upon a worldly philosophy, one that is based upon man’s own conception of God. The God of AA does not have the power to clothe the alcoholic in new clothes; it simply provides a patch that in the long run makes the tear worse. They are worse off because they do not believe in the God that the Bible teaches, the one that makes you whole forever. To the AA member, they will always be an alcoholic. They are a torn and ragged set of clothes, with patches that constantly need to be maintained.

One of the motivational phrases used in many 12-step programs is, “It don’t work unless you work it.” In reality they offer a plan of salvation to drunkenness based upon works. They have tried to implement biblical principles upon one sin, rather than the whole, and in doing so they missed the greatest part of the gospel message. That Christ actually sets you free! If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature, if anyone is in AA they are forever an alcoholic.

John 8:34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Rom 8:1-3

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

In Christ we are set free from the bondage of sin and death, in AA you are free from the bondage of drunkenness but you are still in bondage to booze. Your life now consists of meetings several nights a week, constantly working the 12 steps, constantly trying to stay away from actually drinking. The reality is their life still revolves around their sinful behavior. They become focused on self, receiving rewards for every milestone, often celebrating their victory, and feeling “proud” of their accomplishments. When Christ sets us free, we realize that we deserver no reward or recognition, for He alone deserves the praise. Paul says it best.

Gal 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Our answer to alcoholism is not found in the “Big Book.” The Big Book is the teaching of Bill Wilson, a mere man who suffered from a sin called drunkenness. He finally stopped drinking by making up his own god and invented a works-salvation for others to follow. There is a better way.

The Bible has ALL the answers you need, but you must be willing to accept and believe it. God has revealed Himself to us in His Word and we must follow the teachings that He gave us. The Word of God is enough to save an alcoholic from their sin, and we do believe it is a sin, because the Bible tells us it is. But the Bible offers so much more! The alcoholic will not only be saved from the sin of drunkenness but from ALL sins. Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. This salvation does not require us to “work it.” You are saved solely by God and therefore have no reason to boast, simply a reason to rejoice in the fact that God has done what no man can do. Let us stop sending our loved ones to man for help, but to God. For He alone saves the soul!

Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Heb 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.


1 The Big Book Online, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., Chapter 2 - There Is A Solution
2 Big Book Online, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., Chapter 1 - Bill's Story

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