The Biblical Roots of Early A.A.’s Twelve Steps
Steps One, Two, and Three
By Terry D.
Recently, I’ve read a few excellent books that revealed the true Biblical roots of early
A.A.’s Twelve Steps—researched and written by Dick B.—who is currently the leading
A.A. Historian. The following series, broken up into four parts, will explain the TRUE
Biblical roots of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I will explain, in detail,
how the A.A. founders utilized Christian-based ideals and principles to their “Program”
of recovery. I will also answer this extremely important question: Why did the Pioneer
A.A.’s have a success rate of over 75%, and how did they utilize early A.A. spiritual
roots, while applying early A.A.’s Twelve Steps?
According to Dick B. in his book, Cured!, he writes, “Wilson [A.A. Number One] picked
up… some major ideas about deflation in depth, honesty, confession, life-change,
restitution, prayer and ‘meditation,’ working with others, and adherence to Christian
principles in daily living.”1 In early A.A., especially within the Pioneer A.A.’s, alcoholics
utilized and adhered to Christian principles for living. The Christian ideals and principles
that they followed enabled the 40 Pioneer AAs to have an extremely high success rate of
over 75%. This important documented fact is the reason why it is so vital to make the
Biblical roots of early A.A. known, so everyone of today can apply these life-saving
principles. The following series will provide explanations and documented facts about
the Biblical roots of each of the Twelve Steps.
[Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—
that our lives had become unmanageable.]
I’ll begin the discussion of Step One with a quote from Bill Wilson in A.A.’s Big Book:
[W]e have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.
When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and
Here is an excellent description of A.A.’s First Step from a spiritual standpoint:
Viewed from a spiritual standpoint, the core of A.A.’s First Step powerlessness
and unmanageability could possibly be said to rest on biblical grounds…. The
alcoholic needed to know he or she was powerless over alcohol because of a
mental obsession, coupled with a physical allergy. And that life had become
unmanageable. But the alcoholic would never recover, found Bill and Dr. Bob
[A.A. Number Two], without spiritual wholeness, without finding God—without
union with God….3
The founders of A.A. knew that, without spiritual wholeness and finding God, an
alcoholic could not be cured. They called this lack of spiritual wholeness, “Spiritually
Sick.” From thorough research, Dick B. found the link located in his book, Turning
Point, when he explains:
Several A.A. spiritual sources also point to the unmanageability of a spiritually
sick life, focused on self—a life of self-centeredness and ego-centricity, in which
self constituted God. A common prayer in use at that stage of the path was “O,
God, manage me, because I cannot manage myself”4
So how did early A.A.’s find the solution to overcome spiritual sickness? Once again,
Dick B. explains when he writes, “…Early AAs… studied the Good Book [the Bible];
and they sought the power of God for the solution to their spiritual misery and despair.”5
As we can see, the Bible and Christian principles were vital to early A.A. success, which
eventually produced success rates as high as 75%, compared to numbers as low as 1%
today. And were early A.A.’s cured from applying these principles? The answer is YES.
Yes, Cured! The following quote provides accurate evidence to support this claim:
Alcoholics should not be told they cannot be cured. They should be told they can
be cured. They should be told their founders were cured. Those founders were
cured by the Creator! Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, and Bill Dotson [A.A. Number
Three] all said so—explicitly, many times (See Big Book, 4th ed., pp.181,191).6
Dick B. and I both believe that “Alcoholics need the simple truth in the Bible about what
God has done, can do, promises to do, and will do if we obey His will and believe.”7
Okay, back to Step One. Located in Dick B’s book, The Oxford Group & Alcoholics
Anonymous, the well-known a, b, c’s are explained…
The foregoing step language is followed by the A.A. Big Book’s well-known “a,
b, c’s,” which are:
Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our
personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas: (a)
That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives. (b) That
probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism. (c) That
God could and would if He were sought.8
Furthermore, “In the Big Book chapter, ‘There is a Solution,’ Bill Wilson said that willpower
alone would not solve problems.9 He made it clear that the solution lay in a
relationship with God.”10 Now, lets move ahead to the Biblical roots of Step Two in early
[Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than
ourselves could restore us to sanity.]
According to Dick B. in his book, Turning Point, “Reduced to its essence, and as
described in A.A.’s Big Book, the Second Step required (1) “willingness to believe,” (2)
belief in a “Power, which is God,” and (3) “seeking” the power of God for relief from
alcoholism.”11 Bill Wilson explains the essentials of Step Two when he writes in the Big
We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. “Do I now believe, or am I
even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?” As soon as a
man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure
him that he is on his way.12
The founders of A.A. knew that it was absolutely vital that members come to believe in a
Power greater than themselves, which was God. From a medical viewpoint, alcoholism
was an “incurable disease.” However, A.A. founders also came to understand that
alcoholism could be cured by applying the Christian principles adopted by the “Pioneer
AAs.” One of the “teachings” that were essential to the success of early A.A. includes
The essence of Jesus’s teaching was, that if one obeyed the known
commandments and doctrines of God by acting upon them, he or she would learn
about, believe in, and know more about, God and His will… A.A.’s religious
sources taught that obedience to God’s will is the organ of spiritual knowledge.13
Furthermore, Hebrews 11:6 states:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must
believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.14
There was another important aspect of early A.A. success when “…Dr. Bob was very
emphatic that A.A.’s well-known ‘First Things First’ slogan came from Matthew 6:33.
The verse declares:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things
shall be added unto you.15
Finally, for Part One of this series, we move on to the Biblical roots of early A.A.’s Third
[Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives
over to the care of God as we understood Him.]
In early A.A., Step Three emphasized the importance that members make the decision to
surrender to God. Completion of Step Three is extremely critical to recover from
alcoholism. The founders knew and understood this important fact, so they emphasized
the Christian principles needed in order to successfully “complete” this vital Step. In
Turning Point, Dick B. explains…
Such a decision is mandated in the following Bible verse discussed by two of
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe
in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved
In my opinion, honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness are the first steps to a
successful recovery. Surrender is the next crucial step that will lead us on a journey of
self-discovery and enlightenment that will truly set us free. By having the courage to step
forward in faith, we will be greatly rewarded with a life that’s full of serenity and hope.
No longer do we have to be bound by the deadly grips of alcoholism. For us to achieve
this strength, it was vital that early A.A.’s learned the principle of surrender. Dick B.
The Third Step’s actual surrender phraseology can be found in A.A. sources
which used such language as “turned over to Him her life for His direction” and a
“decision to cast my will and my life on God.”17
Biblical sources associated with a decision to surrender include the following:
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just;
because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the
times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).18
Another important element of early A.A. success was the integration of the “Third Step
Prayer.” According to Dick B. in his book, The Oxford Group & Alcoholics
Anonymous, he writes…
The Big Book’s “Third Step Prayer” and discussion reads in part:
God, I offer myself to Thee—to build with me and to do with me as thou
wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to
those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. I do
Thy will always (p.63).19
To summarize the preceding discussion, I will explain the Twelve Step ideas early AAs
borrowed from the Bible, provided by Dick B’s, Utilizing Early A.A.’s Spiritual Roots
for Recovery Today, when he begins with Step One:
“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank
God through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Romans 7:24-25).
[Willingness] “If any man do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of
God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
[Belief] “but without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must
believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews
[Seeking] “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these
things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
[Surrender] “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe
in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans
10:9). “’Give in,’ he cries, ‘admit that I am God, high over nations, high over the world’”
(Mufatt’s translation of Psalm 46:10); “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10).20
By utilizing early A.A.s spiritual roots, Bill Wilson compiled the real 12 Steps and their
main roots of early A.A. found in Dick B’s book, Cured! Here are Steps One, Two, and
One: We admitted we were licked. Alcohol was our master. We prayed: “O,
God, manage me because I can’t manage myself.”
Two: We became “willing to believe” that God could cure us; to “act as if” He
would; and to take the action that proves God really can and does cure.
Three: We “made a decision” to “rely on the Creator” for help and to “do His
As we can see, there are primary sources and documented accounts that early A.A.
Twelve Steps had Biblical roots. While utilizing early A.A. spiritual roots for recovery,
the Pioneer A.A.’s fully recovered, finally being cured of alcoholism. Yes, the watered
down version of today’s “A.A. Principles” seem to have forgotten the important Christian
principles that produced early A.A.’s high success rates. From the documented facts
herein, you can now see how and why the Biblical roots positively impacted the high
success rates. By studying true A.A. history, we can finally learn how to get cured of
alcoholism. Part Two of this four part series will include Step’s Four, Five, and Six.
Until next time, my friends. Good luck to all, and to all a good recovery. God Bless.
1 B., Dick, Cured! Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts, p.54.
2 Alcoholics Anonymous 4th ed., p.64.
3 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.245.
4 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.247.
5 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.248.
6 B., Dick, Cured! Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts, pp.181, 191.
7 B., Dick, Cured! Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts, p.99.
8 B., Dick, The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, p.301.
9 Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., pp. 22, 44.
10 B., Dick, The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, p.302.
11 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.249.
12 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.249.
13 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.250.
14 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.251
15 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.251.
16 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.251.
17 B., Dick, Turning Point, p.253.
18 B., Dick, Turning Point, pp.253, 254.
19 B., Dick, The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, p.307.
20 B., Dick, Utilizing Early A.A.’s Spiritual Roots for Recovery Today, pp.15,16.
21 B., Dick, Cured! Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts, p.55.
*A special thanks to Dick B. and his great research on the early Biblical
roots of A.A