Dick B. discusses his forthcoming title, “Recovery Revival: Early A.A.’s ‘First Century Christianity’ in Recovery Today” (Part 2), on the June 23, 2013, episode of the “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show
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You may hear Dick B.’s second presentation on his forthcoming title, Recovery Revival, on the June 23, 2013, episode of the “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show here:
Episodes of the “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show are archived at:
This is the second in a series of brief presentations in separate chunks of the material on the origins of A.A. in the Bible, the various elements of “old-school A.A.,” and how the principles and practices of the Akron Group Number One “Christian fellowship” can be applied in today’s recovery programs and in A.A. itself to enhance and make more useful the historical tools that were used when A.A. was put on the map with its astonishing successes.
Last evening, the first in the series was launched. The series itself will be presented in three ways: (1) By this series of radio interviews covering one old-school A.A. development at a time. (2) In a book by Dick B. and Ken B. titled Recovery Revival: Early A.A.’s First Century Christianity in Recovery Today. and (3) For the benefit of sponsors, trainers, leaders, and speakers–many of whom will be attending “The First International Alcoholics Anonymous History Conference” in Portland, Maine, on September 6-7, 2013.
Our first and previous program introduced the facts about “old-school A.A.,” its names, its nature, accounts of its techniques, and how it is supported by Conference-approved literature today .
This program will deal with the explicit roots and remarks of the early AAs as to how they were using the Bible for their recoveries and what portions of the Bible were emphasized. In our new book, each paragraph is accompanied by a footnote. Each footnote will enable the reader and trainer to quote from the source; to authenticate the quote; and to research the subject of the paragraph, as well as identify it for trainees, classes, sponsors, and newcomers.
The First Step in Recovery Revival Is to the Bible
Dr. Bob said: “I had refreshed my memory of the Good Book, and I had had excellent training in that as a youngster.”
Dr. Bob read the Bible from cover to cover three times and could quote from its passages verbatim.
“Dr. Bob was always positive about his faith. Clarence [his sponsee Clarence H. S.] said, If someone asked him a question about the program, his usual response was: ‘What does it say in the Good Book.’”
Bill W. had read the Bible with his grandfather Griffith and attended church and Sunday school at East Dorset Congregational Church, East Dorset, Vermont.
Bill W. had taken a required four-year Bible study course at Burr and Burton Seminary where he attended high school. He also there attended daily chapel where Scriptures were read, sermons were delivered, prayers were given, and hymns were sung.
Dr. Bob said of AA Number 3, Bill D.: “Now I knew that this Bill was a Sunday-school superintendent, and I thought that he probably forgot more about the Good Book every night than I ever knew.”
Earl T. said: “I remember most distinctly the first meeting that I attended—Bill D. sat with the Holy Bible in his lap. . . . Bill read excerpts from the Bible.”
To T. Henry Williams (in whose Akron home Wednesday meetings were held) Bill said: “I learned a great deal from you people. I hadn’t looked in the Bible up to this time, at all. You see, I had the experience [the blazing extraordinary white light experience in his hospital room at Towns Hospital] first and then this rushing around to help drunks and nothing happened.”
Henrietta Seiberling often taught AAs at their early meetings; and her daughter Dorothy Seiberling wrote Dick B: “Mother did read Corinthians a great deal, but she read a lot, just picking up the Bible wherever it opened & going on from there. . . Of course, she believed in God & Christ, & and looked to the Bible for her guidance.”
Bill W.’s wife, Lois, wrote in a small notebook at Stepping Stones: “Sat. A.M. Chas Haines—Bible. . . Home Quiet Time,” p. 7.
Dr. Bob’s wife, Anne, taught from her journal, stating: “Of course the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it.”
The Rockefeller people dispatched Frank Amos to Akron to investigate the Christian Fellowship there. Amos summarized the program and in Item 4, he wrote: “He must have devotions every morning—a quiet time’ of prayer and some reading from the Bible and other religious literature.
Rev. Samuel Shoemaker was credited by Bill W. as the major source of A.A.’s 12 Steps. And Shoemaker’s assistant minister W. Irving Harris wrote: “The Scriptures formed the basis of Sam Shoemaker’s preaching. He was a “Bible Christian.”
Dr. Frank Buchman was the founder and leader of “A First Century Christian Fellowship”—the Oxford Group–with which both Bill W. and Dr. Bob had been associated. Buchman’s biographer wrote: “Buchman was. . . “soaked in the Bible” and made certain it formed the basis of the training given in Oxford.”
Dr. Bob pointed out in his last major speech: “In early A.A. days. . . when we started in on Bill D., our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of. When we started in on Bill D., we had no Twelve Steps, either; we had no Traditions.
But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James. We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s house.
Dr. Bob also wrote: “It wasn’t until 1938 that the teachings and efforts and studies that had been going on were crystallized in the form of the Twelve Steps. I didn’t write the Twelve Steps. I had nothing to do with the writing of them. . . . We already had the basic ideas, though not in terse and tangible form. We got them, as I said, as a result of our study of the Good Book.
‘Ere long, Bill W. secured a vote of approval for his new idea of publishing the “Big Book.” Bill wrote the basic manuscript; and, when two visitors came to see him, Bill said: “I was greatly pleased with what I had written, and I read them the new version of the program, now the ‘Twelve Steps.” But a great deal of debate arose over their contention that “You’ve got too much God in these steps.” On the other side, Fitz M., the Episcopal minister’s son, pushed the position that “the book ought to be Christian in the doctrinal sense of the word and that it should say so. He was in favor of using Biblical terms and expressions to make that clear.” But Bill W.’s partner, Henry P.
had “come to believe in some sort of ‘universal power.’” Henry P. wanted “a psychological book which would lure the alcoholic in. Once in, the prospect could take God or leave Him alone as he wished.
In the original draft, however, Bill “had refused to budge on these steps.” As Bill put it, “I would not change a word of the original draft, in which, you will remember, I had consistently used the word “God,” and in one place the expression “on our knees” was used.” Henry P. was affronted; and he argued Bill into changing the “God” language entirely in the Steps. This, said Bill, final concession to those of little or no faith . . . had widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.”
But that was far from the end of the Bible in Alcoholics Anonymous. In the very first edition published in 1939, the Big Book used a seemingly endless number of biblical descriptions of God (Creator, God, Maker, Father, Heavenly Father). It actually quoted the Bible using such phrases as “Thy will be done,” “Faith without works is dead,” and “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Moreover, the personal stories of the pioneers
talked a great deal about God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. And subsequent “Conference-approved” A.A. literature contained extensive information about how the Bible was stressed, how it was read at meetings, and how it was “required” to be read by the newcomer. The official biography of Bill W. contained material on Bill’s studying the Bible with Bob and Anne in their home in Akron. The two men favored “Quiet Time” and Christian literature containing biblical ideas and verses.
For the reader of this chapter, we recommend that pursuing the biblical roots of A.A. should begin with the book, Dick B., The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible.