Dick B. discusses Good Book-Big Book meetings and which Bible version to use on the March 30, 2013, episode of the "Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show. www.ChristianRecoveryCoalition.com
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You may hear Dick B. discuss Good Book-Big Book meetings and which Bible version to use on the March 30, 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:
Introduction by Host Ken B.
Recently, we (Dick B. and Ken B.) published and disseminated widely a newsletter primarily for those many folks who have been phoning, emailing, and telling us at meetings that they want to start an A.A. Step Study/Big Book and Bible study group as an A.A. Directory-listed meeting or as a Christian Recovery meeting.
Inevitably, they ask how they should go about the process. And we have published and/or otherwise sent out a good many guides, lists of suggested study topics, and lists of suggested procedures for setting up the meeting they wish to conduct. We particularly focused on such meetings in our new title: Stick with the Winners!: How to Conduct More Effective 12-Step Meetings Using Conference-Approved Literature (http://mcaf.ee/s50mq).
More often than not, the meetings folks ask us about conducting will cover study of the Big Book and 12 Steps in conjunction with study of the Bible. This is because A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob made it so clear in his last major talk to AAs how important the Bible was in formulating the basic ideas for the 12 Steps. He spoke of the effort, study, and teaching that were involved. And our most popular title, The Good Book and the Big Book: A.A.'s Roots in the Bible (http://dickb.com/goodbook.shtml) has been a frequent starting point.
This evening, Dick B. will summarize an article he just wrote on this subject area, and which he also posted on line and sent to many by email. The importance of the subject is underlined in Dr. Bob's remarks in the A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlet titled The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (item # P-53). And I (Ken B.) will start the program off by quoting some of what Dr. Bob said on pages 13 and 14 of that important pamphlet.
In the early days. . . our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of. When we started in on Bill D. [A.A. Number Three], 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 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. [See Dick B., The Book of James and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials www.dickb.com.JamesClub.shtml].
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. But I think I probably had something to do with them indirectly. After my June 10th episode, Bill came to live at our house and stayed for about three months. There was hardly a night that we didn’t sit up until two or three o’clock talking. . . . We already had the basic ideas, though not in terse and tangible form. We got them as a result of our study of the Good Book.
Synopsis of Dick B.’s Talk on Which Bible Version to Use for Your Study Group
The title of tonight’s talk is “A.A. Big Book/12 Step/Bible Study Groups: Which Bible Version
Should We Use.” The talk is based on a two part article just posted on many websites, blogs, and forums, as well as being sent out in our newsletter. The first part is titled “Part One: First, Which “Big Book” Should We Use.” And we will have more to say about that in another Christian Recovery Radio interview. But the focus tonight will be on Part Two- “Now, Which Bible Should We Use?”
And here are the answers provided to “Which Bible Should We Use?”
Two Suggested Biblical Pieces Used by Early AAsin Their “Christian Fellowship” Program
The King James Version of the Bible: Which Bible should we use? The most appropriate answer is “the Holy Bible”—in this case, the King James Version--which was the English Bible Version used, studied, and quoted by the early A.A. pioneers, and which provided the basic ideas for their program of recovery.
The Runner’s Bible: The next answer can properly be: The Runner’s Bible: Spiritual Guidance for People on the Run, compiled and annotated by Nora Holm, with an Introduction by Polly Berrien Berends (Lakewood, CO: I Level, Acropolis Books, 1998). This book is a reprint of The Runner’s Bible prepared in 1910 by Nora Holm. I found a copy of the earlier book among the books of Dr. Bob that were shown to me by Dr. Bob’s son and daughter. And Dr. Bob’s son, Robert R. Smith, told me that this was a favorite devotional his father used. And a statement of the Table of Contents may well show why:
“In the Morning Will I Order My Prayer to Thee”
God the Father
The Christ of God
Him That Filleth All in All
His Image and Likeness
Walk in Love
In Everything Give Thanks
Fear Not, Only Believe
Get Wisdom, Get Understanding
Ask and Ye Shall Receive
He That is The Greatest Among You Shall Be Your Servant
Forgive and Ye Shall Be Forgiven
Be of Good Cheer, Thy Sins Be Forgiven Thee
I Will Help Thee
Behold, I Will Heal Thee
For Thine Is The Power
The Lord Shall Guide Thee Continually
Thou Shalt Walk In Thy Way Safely
All Things Are Yours
Peace Be Unto You
Happy Shalt Thou Be
The Lord Will Lighten My Darkness
Those familiar with the Bible will quickly recognize the biblical references in the subjects. They will also see biblical expressions applied in early A.A. And they will be seeing, in the many verses under each subject, just what “basic ideas” Dr. Bob stated the early AAs began studying, exerting themselves to learn, and teaching.
Four Well-Known, Relatively-New “Recovery” Bibles
The next four choices of a Bible for study are those that arose long, long after A.A. was founded in 1935. And here are they are:
1. Serenity: A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery. Complete with New Testament, Psalms & Proverbs by Dr. Robert Hemfelt and Dr. Bernard Fowler (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990). Hemfelt is a psychologist who is said to have specialties in the treatment of codependency, addictions, and adult-children-of-abuse issues. Fowler is said to have a background in education, counseling, and administration.
Neither A.A.’s cofounders nor its other pioneers limited their Bible study in the way Serenity does. The Serenity authors state that the Twelve Steps are printed but adapted for use with all dependencies. There is extensive psychological talk about addictions and the like. The authors err in emphasizing the significance of the Oxford Group; while, at the same time, omitting: (a) the Christian predecessors of A.A., (b) the Christian upbringing of A.A.’s cofounders—which included intensive Bible study by both Bill W. and Dr. Bob as young men, (c) the fact that early A.A. in Akron called itself a “Christian fellowship,” and (d) the important statements by Dr. Bob that the earlier AAs felt the answer to their problems was in the Bible, and that the parts they considered absolutely essential were Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James, and 1 Corinthians 13. Missing too is the original Akron A.A. program which is stated in summary form in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers at page 131; and missing in addition are the 16 practices of the early A.A. Christians which implemented the seven-point program as summarized.
Serenity’s commentaries do not cover the important early A.A. requirements of belief in the Creator (Hebrews 11:6); conversion to God through His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9); the significance in James 4:7 of submitting to God; the many phrases in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 from which Step ideas came; and the high regard in which early AAs held 1 Corinthians 13 and the importance of love.
2. Recovery Devotional Bible New International Version: With 365 Daily Readings (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993). Verne Becker is the General Editor. This Bible contains a great many tools to aid study. The Bible’s front matter, for example, includes the following items: (a) Alphabetical Order of the Books of the Bible; (b) Acknowledgements; (c) Introduction to the Recovery Devotional Bible; (d) The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous; (e) The Bible Step by Step; (f) Spiritual Roots of the Twelve Steps; (g) Working Together – The Bible and the Twelve Steps; (h) The Recovery Family; and (i) Preface to the New International Version.
In one sense, this version attempts to be all things to all studies--a daily devotional; a bit of A.A. history; and opinions as to how this or that verse can be applied to some Step or A.A. language.
And, except for a well-known article by Tim Stafford, there is no adequate presentation of early A.A., or of the all-important Sermon on the Mount, Book of James, and 1 Corinthians 13.
As an NIV, the book is perhaps more easily understood, yet open to private interpretation that may or may not square with the idea that the Word of God is God-inspired. The more one attempts to mix the secular with the biblical, the more the biblical end suffers from man-made reasoning instead of being the product of a renewed mind, coming from the transformation discussed in Romans 10:9, 12:1-3, and 2 Corinthian 5:7. There is no adequate recognition of the healing or cure that Bill Wilson claimed when he wrote “The Lord has cured me of this terrible disease.”
3. The Life Recovery Bible: The Living Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). The Executive Editors are David Stoop and Stephen Arterburn. This Bible is filled with footnotes explaining verses. It explains “The Big Picture” and “The Bottom Line” for each book of the Bible. It covers “Reflections” and “Insights.” Sprinkled through the various books of the Bible are large column references to a Step, and then to the authors’ attempt to relate the Step idea to a particular part of a particular book of the Bible. There is an Index to Twelve Step Devotionals, to Recovery Principle Devotionals, to Serenity Prayer Devotionals, and to Recovery Reflections.
My son Ken and I have seen this particular Bible in wide use among the many Bible study groups, Christian recovery fellowships, and 12-Step meetings of Christians all over the United States at which we have spoken; met with Christian treatment leaders, counselors, recovery pastors, doctors, clergy, and Salvation Army treatment programs.
As with the other three “recovery” Bibles, there are several problems that make them difficult for both the newcomer and/or the sponsor to master and utilize. They don’t discuss “old-school” A.A. adequately or accurately. Their histories are skewed to Bill Wilson’s “new version of the program” represented by the Twelve Steps. They tend to excuse or try to explain how A.A. is “spiritual but not religious;” and how it is open to all, including atheists. They strive and strain to make Bible verses fit into and with A.A.’s twelve, little “Steps.” Finally, they use the Bible in a way that neither early AAs nor most present-day AAs can find focused on their own life-problems, disasters, and legal and other difficulties.— as to which God can provide guidance, forgiveness, and deliverance. In that respect, they also fail to emphasize “cure” and “healing,” though early AAs spoke repeatedly of this. They fail to point much to the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played in the Christian Recovery Movement. And they certainly fail to report adequately or accurately the real Christian origins of A.A. ideas from about 1850 forward—efforts or people and organizations that helped rather than condemned alcoholics. These included the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Salvation Army, Gospel Rescue Missions, Congregationalists, the great evangelists, and the United Society of Christian Endeavor.
If simplicity of presentation and simplicity of spiritual understanding are essential to an AA’s being lifted out of the hole by the power, love, forgiveness, healing, and guidance of Almighty God, then this simplicity is missing in every one of the Bibles that tries to present something other than God’s Word alone.
4. Celebrate Recovery Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007). Pastor John Baker is the founder of Celebrate Recovery, a ministry of Saddleback Church in California. The book is huge
As Baker explains in an introductory section called “About the Celebrate Recovery Bible”:
. . . [T]he familiar twelve steps remain intact under the Celebrate Recovery model, except that the vague language about a Higher Power gets specific, focusing on the one and only true Higher Power, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Celebrate Recovery is built on the eight proven Biblical principles based on the well-loved Beatitudes from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount . . . The Christ-centered twelve steps fit neatly and naturally underneath the umbrella of the eight principles . . . [unnumbered page xi].
He then lists the following features of the Celebrate Recovery Bible: (a) Book Introductions; (b) Character Studies; (c) Recovery Stories; (d) Lesson Studies; (e) Recovery-related Scripture Ties; (f) Thirty Days of Devotions; (g) an Index Subjects Features; and to Character Sketches and Recovery Stories.
I will let this Bible speak for itself and be explained at a Celebrate Recovery meeting to those who have chosen to go the Celebrate Recovery route. And there are many! Once again, the sheer volume of Bible, explanations, mixture of Beatitudes and Steps, along with devotionals and the like, would seem to challenge a newcomer, a sponsor, and/or a group leader in a way that A.A. does not do—at least not in voluminous writing.
But it is fair to say that this is the newest, and possibly the most-widely-used, “recovery Bible” today.
But Let’s Consider The Following,Simple, Christian Choice That Is Available
First of all, most A.A. newcomers are sick, bewildered, confused, in endless troubles, frightened, and timid in their approach to recovery. I certainly was as well!
Second, “Keep it simple” is a common piece of wisdom of the rooms that is frequently suggested; and, if of value, is tailored to moving the alcoholic out of acute and delayed withdrawal, brain damage, confusion, and fear.
Third, In the early days, A.A. had excellent, qualified teachers. Among the lay teachers were:
• Dr. Bob’s wife—an ardent Bible student and former teacher;
• Henrietta Seiberling—a devoted Christian and Vassar graduate; and
• T. Henry Williams—a famous inventor and former Sunday school teacher.
Then there were the clergy on the East Coast—led by Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. And there was the highly-respected physician William D. Silkworth, M.D.—specialist in treating thousands of alcoholics.
Each teacher, in his or her own way, spoon-fed newcomers. With prayer; Quiet Time; three rather-brief segments of the Bible—Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James, and 1 Corinthians 13. And with surrender to God; Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; much-needed hospitalization.; and with living or meeting in the homes as the early First Century Christians did. Finally, with simply helping others not so far along in recovery—all the while fellowshipping, witnessing, and converting.
How About Your Considering the following choice!
How about the following choice when it comes to the Bible, the Big Book, and Study Groups?
1. Select a Bible version of choice—acquired, if desired, from a thrift shop.
2. Think about the King James Version since that was used by A.A. pioneers and quoted in later A.A. literature.
3. Read and teach from the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and 1 Corinthians 13.
4. Bring in a pastor or Bible teacher to conduct study of those three books.
5. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
6. Discuss. Discuss. Discuss.
7. Accompany all this with prayer, use of a devotional like The Runner’s Bible, and simple literature like Henry Drummond’s The Greatest Thing in the World (about 1 Cor 13).
8. Graduate into the Christian books early AAs read for spiritual growth.
9. Have a Christian A.A. teach simple A.A. history.
10. Have a Christian A.A. who is Big Book-oriented teach how the historical approach and the Bible can be applied in A.A. today.
For further information, contact Dick B. at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 808 874 487 6