The most important finds in my 26 years of continuous sobriety and publishing of the roots of A.A. has been the evidence of exactly where A.A. came from. And we now have most of the books which spell out the stages:
1. The idea of curing alcoholism is, of course, as old as the Bible and buttressed by the miracles wrought by Jesus Christ and later the Apostles as described in the Book of Acts.
2. The key to understanding early A.A. is to learn why so many likened it to First Century Christianity; and the later, spinoff Oxford Group phase itself was called A First Century Christian Fellowship. www.dickb.com/Oxford.shtml.
3. However, it was in the 1800’s that the Christian Recovery Movement really began. It was with the Great Evangelists like Dwight Moody, Ira Sankey, F.B. Meyer, Henry Drummond, and Allen Folger. Then with the Young Men’s Christian Association brethren in New England. Then with the Gospel Rescue Missions. Then with the Salvation Army. And then with the United Christian Endeavor Society. All this is covered in my recent book Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a Youngster in Vermont www.dickb.com/drbobofaa.shtml.
4. From the successes of these people and organizations, we move to the Christian upbringing of A.A. cofounders Dr. Robert H. Smith in St. Johnsbury Vermont, William Griffith Wilson in East Dorset and Manchester and Northfield Vermont, and with their linkage with Edwin Throckmorton Thacher who came from a long line of clergy and got his Christian upbringing largely in Vermont.
5. Moreover, Bill Wilson had a very special relationship with our Heavenly Father—which had little if anything to do with the Oxford Group. Bill’s grandfather Willie C. Wilson was cured of alcoholism when he cried out to God for help on Mount Aeolus in Vermont and was saved. Later, Bill was told by Dr. Silkworth that the Great Physician Jesus Christ could cure him. Bill’s friend Ebby Thacher visited Bill and told him of his trip to the altar at Calvary Rescue Mission and his healing there. Consequently, Bill also went to the altar, accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, wrote that he had been born again, and then went on to Towns Hospital where Bill, like his grandfather, cried out to God for help and was cured. See www.dickb.com/conversion.shtml
6. With that, Bill visited Dr. Bob in Akron, told him of the cure, and convinced Dr. Bob that service to others was a missing link that was part of the reliance on God for help.
7. The Akron program was founded, and it certainly didn’t come from the Oxford Group. It is described in detail in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, at page 131.
8. Four years later, Bill fashioned a new program based in part on the life-changing ideas of the Oxford Group as Bill learned them from Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker. The Big Book was, at first, consistent with the Akron program; but prior to publication erased God and Jesus Christ from the scene and substituted the nebulous higher power as most saw it or erroneously interpreted it..
9. Today, A.A. is neither Christian nor atheist. It is not monolithic. It has accepted people of all faiths and no faith. But the rich and important tradition of the early A.A. Christian Fellowship is clearly followed and applied by many Christians in A.A. today www.ChristianRecoveryCoalition.com
Richard G. Burns, J.D., CDAAC, Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active recovered AA with over 26 years of continuous sobriety
(pen name Dick B.)
Author, 46 titles & over 1,200 articles on A.A. History and the Christian Recovery Movement
Exec. Dir., International Christian Recovery Coalition
PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837