The Relationship Between the Bible and the 12 Steps
Are the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous related to the Bible? If so, what is the relationship between the Bible and the 12 Steps? Fundamentally, the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous encompass the Scripture’s core teachings regarding God’s loving relationship with humanity. The steps begin with an admission of powerlessness and a declaration of faith in God’s power. After this, the steps suggest continual reflection on our actions, turning over our will to God and service to others. Finally, the steps encourage conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation.
The 12 Steps not only guide us through an ongoing process of reflection, confession and forgiveness, but they also ask us to guide others through this process. This concept is akin to discipleship in the Scripture; discipleship, referred to in the Big Book as “sharing one’s experience, strength, and hope” is one of the primary purposes of the 12 Steps. Although the 12 Steps are not intended as a pathway to salvation, countless people have encountered God and had a spiritual experience as a result of working the steps.
In establishing the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson borrowed material from numerous sources, including the Bible, and translated them into language easier for the alcoholic to accept. Instead of the term “salvation,” A.A. speaks of sobriety and a spiritual experience. A.A. uses “carrying the message” instead of “evangelization,” and speaks of spirituality rather than religion. A.A. often uses the term “Higher Power“ instead of God, in order to reach more suffering alcoholics who may struggle with the concept of God. In fact, in four of the 12 Steps, God is referenced directly as the “Higher Power.” Despite these shifts in verbiage, the 12 Steps of A.A. are rooted in Christian theology and values.
Two of the central concepts to A.A. are reliance on God and service to others, both of which are at the core of the Bible’s teaching. In the chapter entitled, “We Agnostics,” the authors of the Big Book write, “either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is or He isn’t” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 53). At this point in the Big Book, the authors address those who struggle with the concept of God. They suggest that alcoholics must make a decision to believe in a Power greater than themselves in order to maintain sobriety and to change their lives for the better. This is where reliance on God comes into play. Throughout the 12 Steps and A.A. literature, the founders of A.A. stress the importance of relying on a Higher Power, often referenced directly as God.
A second important pillar of A.A. is service to others. In the fifth appendix of the Big Book titled “The Religious View on A.A.,” the authors quote a Christian magazine, The Living Church: “The basis of the technique of Alcoholics Anonymous is the truly Christian principle that a man cannot help himself except by helping others.” Service to others and spreading the message are at the root of both the Bible and Alcoholics Anonymous. Despite the lack of explicit Christian references, the 12 Steps of A.A. trace their roots to many of the essential core principles of the Bible, but remain open to people of all faiths.
Road to Freedom
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