Gary C: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio program of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could tune in. In today’s program, Tom wraps up a two-part series with guest Gary Gilley as they address the topic: “Is It Alcoholism…Or Just Being a Drunk?” Here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. In this second part of our program – I’ve been talking to Gary Gilley. Gary’s a pastor and author. His books are This Little Church Went to Market, which is available from their website as a downloadable pdf. Gary, give us – right now – give us your website address.
Gary: Okay, it’s svchapel.org.
Tom: Great. Gary’s also written I Just Wanted More Land, dealing with the Prayer of Jabez; This Little Church Stayed Home, and This Little Church Had None. Gary, you have a new book?
Gary: Yeah, Out of Formation. It deals with the Spiritual Disciplines or what some call The Spiritual Formation Movement.
Tom: Right. That’s the whole contemplative movement, and so on.
Tom: And he’s written articles for a favorite journal of mine. It’s called Personal Freedom Outreach Quarterly Journal, yet Gary and Kurt Goedelman wrote an article on AA and Twelve Steps, and that’s really what we’re talking about. And it’s an important issue.
Now, as I mentioned last week, we want to look at the influence - we’ve described 12 Steps, to a degree. We’re going to get into more of it. And we’ve described Alcoholics Anonymous – Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, and that group.
But its influence in the church is really staggering. And I would start with, certainly the most influential that I know of, and that would be Celebrate Recovery, which comes out of Saddleback Church, Rick Warren, and so forth. They’ve been doing that for 25 years – way before, I think, Rick became a household word. Certainly they knew him in Orange County, California, but not as popular as he’s been after…I think Purpose-Driven Life is up to about 40 million copies, or close. Incredible!
So, Gary, let’s start with 12 Steps, since that’s the heart of it. And I know…we’re not going to deal with all 12 steps, but I would like you talk about…let’s go at least for the first three of the twelve steps, and we can comment on it.
Gary: Yeah, the first step is [that] we admit we are powerless over alcohol – that our lives have become unmanageable. And, as we look at a few of these steps, I think you’ll see why the church has kind of embraced some of this. A lot of the language sounds similar to what we might say in the church or what we might read in the Bible, but on closer examination, I think every one of these steps falls short of what Scripture actually teaches. And that’s important, because people…just because it sounds close to what people are used to hearing doesn’t mean it’s actually teaching what the Bible teaches.
Tom: Right. Well, let’s break down the first one for them. So, “we admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Tom: I don’t see any sin there.
Gary: No, there’s no sin there. And going back to the “disease model” we talked about last time: the real issue is I’m a “diseased” person; I’ve caught something somewhere, and so I can’t help myself. I’m the victim again, so I need to deal with my disease - not my sin, not my moral problems, not my choices. That’s radically different from what Scripture would teach.
Tom: Right. And Step 2: “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Gary: Yeah. And, again, that sounds pretty good at first, but, again, we look at it and we see that – who is this power? In AA, the power can be whoever you want it to be, really. It could be yourself, it could be your imagination, it could be some other god, it could be whatever; or even the God of Scripture, but he could not be really the God that we would describe as found in Scripture. So it’s a power. And this power restores us to sanity. It doesn't restore us to Christ. It doesn’t change our lives or bring about forgiveness and removal of guilt. It restores us to sanity.
So, great! You’re sane, but you’re not saved. So it’s certainly not a biblical picture.
Tom: Yeah, and I’ve talked to many who have been rescued from AA because of the control that it has over a person, and they said that when they got truly saved, they tried to bring Jesus Christ in, and they were rebuked. They were sent away! Now, I’m not…I’ve never been through that program, so I’m taking the word of more than one individual – many individuals – who have said, no, Jesus Christ and the gospel, that’s out! That’s not a part of that whole process.
Now, the other thing that I find almost ironic about it; so, you bring whatever power you want, whatever “god” you want. So, Gary, does that mean I could bring Bacchus, the god of wine? Or Dionysus – you know, these are the “party hearty” gods of the Romans. I mean, that’s so contradictory, but it fits in with that mentality of “bring whomever, whatever, you think might help you.”
Gary: Yeah, exactly. So, whatever works – and really, it’s a very pragmatic thing, which is why, I think, when we really talk about this subject, the church has become, by and large, extremely pragmatic today. So, whatever works is good, and that is that [instead of defining] “good” as God defines “good,” we define “whatever works” as good.
So, if AA works, and we discussed last time that it’s not nearly as successful as people think it is, but if it works for you, then it has to be good! Well, that could be…a lot of definitions on that. A lot of descriptions. That could be a deception by the devil himself. He’s more than happy, I think, to keep you sober if he can keep you away from God.
Gary: Yeah, pragmatism is a big deal here.
Tom: And Proverbs, twice: “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Now, by death, that’s not talking specifically about physical death, although that could be a part of it, but it’s talking about separation – separation from God; from the truth to a lie, to a delusion, to a deception.
Gary: That’s right.
Tom: And Step 3: “Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of ‘God as we understood him.’”
Gary: Yeah. So, now we’re defining God.
Gary: This is important, because Scripture doesn’t allow us to define God. God defines himself, over and over and over. He tells us who He is, and we are to adjust our thinking to what God says. In this program [AA], we get to define God. And so we pick out what we want as we understand him, and that’s good enough for AA programs. Or at least that’s what they think. So at the very least – I guess at the very best – if AA helps somebody become sober, that’s the best we get. We don’t bring them, really, to the true God of Scripture and to the true need of being reconciled to that God.
Tom: And, see, folks, what we’re doing here, which, by God’s grace, in many other programs, we’re encouraging the Word of God – understanding the Word of God. We’re encouraging hermeneutics, okay?
And what we’re seeing today is…you described, in a sense, exegesis. In other words, we want to hear what God has to say. We come to the table, this is what God says, and that’s how we understand it. But what we’re seeing today is what’s called “eisegesis.” We impose our own ideas on what we think about God. And that’s Step 3, isn’t it?
Gary: Yeah, that’s what we’re doing today, but most people don’t understand that, as you know, Tom. Most people are going to churches where there’s no good hermeneutic being used; the Bible’s not being expounded or taught; we have these great small groups and wonderful music, and other programs, but the Word of God is simply not being followed. I write a paper under our banner here called Think on These Things that deals with these kinds of issues. My latest article was “Does Doctrine Matter Any More?” And to the church at large, it doesn’t. That’s just a repetition of what happened back in the 1800s with liberalism. It very much concerns me, and AA is symptomatic of that.
Tom: Yeah, Scripture says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”
Gary: That’s right.
Tom: So, there’s the problem. And if you’re not looking to Scripture, you have no basis for discernment. You’re going with this expert, so called, or that expert, or even – I mean that’s one of the occupational hazards of being a really good preacher/teacher that people don’t even bring their Bibles. They just sit at the foot of a good preacher/teacher. And that’s not what a good preacher/teacher wants.
Tom: He wants them to be Bereans.
Gary: That’s right.
Tom: Check out what he says by the Word of God. So… that’s our exhortation. That’s our encouragement here. Now, Gary, as I mentioned, Celebrate Recovery – it’s been ongoing for 25 years when it was a major part of Prison Fellowship; they utilized that, because they’re trying to help people solve their problems, get over their issues, and so on. But this is syncretism. This is mixing man’s ideas and ways with God’s ways, which ultimately are perverted, distorted, and so on, to make it work.
Now, I went through the training program for Celebrate Recovery. And why would I do that? Because, you know, folks, Gary writes – we write – about a lot of things, and we go on the basis of books, and so on, but if you have the opportunity to get a better understanding of where a person’s head is in this, and what they’re going about, it’s important. Again, if the opportunity arises, and it did for me, so I went through the entire program of being trained as a Celebrate Recovery leader. And they claimed, and Rick claims, that this is based – their 12 steps – is based on The Beatitudes. What do you think, Gary?
Gary: Well, if you’re looking at what the beatitudes actually teach, nobody would ever come up with that idea. No commentator, no theologian, nobody that just read it, would say, “Yeah, these are the steps needed to overcome alcoholism or whatever else, the context is wrong. So, the very most important of all hermeneutical rules is context. What is Jesus talking about in the context? And it’s not about “recovery” from something like this.
So, you begin with a faulty basis. What has happened in the church with AA for many, many years – even before Rick Warren’s program – was that people thought it worked, but they realized it had problems. Some of the problems we just talked about, like who God is, and so forth. So they thought if they could just change the words around and make “the God as we understand him” the God of the Bible, and so forth, that it makes all this fit.
The problem with it is it’s not based upon Scripture to begin with. These are not the steps God gives in Scripture at all for solving our problems. So just adding a few words about Jesus and some scriptures doesn’t change that. And Warren has gone even much further in trying to use a passage of Scripture in Matthew 5 that isn’t about that subject at all! So now we’ve got more problems, and why people would go through a program and read those words in Scripture and then make these connections is just beyond me.
Tom: Yeah. As much as I’ve written about psychological counseling, even biblical counseling, and all of that, I consider myself a biblical counselor. But in the sense of just ministering – I’m just like a part of the body of Christ. I don’t have a label outside my office where people come in, and set things up – a time issue with regard to that – but my point here, Gary, is when I do minister to people…this is a brother in Christ to a brother, or maybe a couple, the first thing I want to know: I don’t want to know about their symptoms. I want to know where their walk with the Lord is.
Tom: Now, that may sound like I’m avoiding the tough issues. No! That’s the heart of the problem! If they’re not walking with the Lord, if they’re not trusting Him, if they’re not into God’s Word, they’re going to have problems. And to think that somebody can come along that’s like a silver bullet and solve their problems, that’s the heart of 12 Steps. That’s the methodology. That’s the heart of…maybe what people want, but it’s not the solution for a godly life in Christ – one that pleases the Lord. What do you think?
Gary: Well, one of the things I teach wherever I go concerning Scripture is that if we start with Scripture – with what God says – then we’re able to filter out all these other things: these deceptions and half-truths, and so forth. We analyze those with the filter of Scripture. So that’s what I encourage…wherever I go, I mean, it’s “Let’s study Scripture. Let’s go to the Bible first. Let’s see what God has to say.” Then we can examine other things critically, and so forth. But if you start with other things, whatever they are, and 12 Steps is just one of them – thousands of things out there – you start with something else, then you try to baptize that “something else” with some scripture, you can come up with anything you want.
Gary: So, the real issue is what we’re talking about: the sufficiency of Scripture. Does God know what He’s talking about, or doesn’t He? And if He knows what He’s talking about, then why are we going to all these other things at all – and, especially, why do we go to them first? I think we think it’s easier (maybe it is – maybe it’s easier just to go and get the silver bullet), but it’s not the true solution. It doesn’t really change the life of a person.
Tom: That is the problem with psychology – I’m talking primarily about psychotherapy, psychological counseling…and all this is related. You know, when I was at Celebrate Recovery, the training leadership, they said, “No, this has nothing to do with psychology.” And guess who the speakers were. Two Christian psychologists! Okay? And then, at the end they said, “Look, if this program isn’t available – or if you have a program – try and invite the local Christian psychologist in.” I don’t know where their heads are in this.
Tom: I hope it’s not purposely deceiving people, but nevertheless, there’s a deception here being imposed.
Gary: Yeah, and then you have another set of problems. Let me give you an illustration of something that happened to me just recently. I had a man call me that doesn’t go to our church, but his wife is into one of these kind of addictions, he thinks, and she went to a Christian psychologist here in the area; they have a clinic, and it’s supposed to be Christian, and this person diagnosed them with this disease of some kind of an addiction. And there’s nothing you can do about it, according to this psychologist. It’s a disease.
So, now him and his wife are convinced that not only does she have a problem, but she’s been diagnosed, by a so-called Christian counselor, with a disease that has to be dealt with as if it’s a regular disease – with medication.
Now, if they come and talk to me on the phone, and they want to know what I can do (because this hasn’t worked for them), and now, I’ve got to not only go back and deal with the true sin issue, you’ve got to back and unravel what a “Christian psychologist” told them. People are confused! And I feel sorry for these folks. It was terrible to talk to them, because I don’t know how they get out of this web, unless you just scratch the whole thing, go back to Scripture, and start over, which I hope is what they’ll do.
Tom: Yeah, and that’s the heartbreak. I think I mentioned it in our program earlier – the heartbreak is that they’re in a very vulnerable situation. They want to get their problem solved, and they’re getting bogus counsel; they’re getting bogus so-called wisdom. But, the good news is that God’s still there! He can deliver them. Maybe, hopefully, prayerfully, their calling you was a step in the right direction.
Gary: I hope so.
Tom: But, folks, the bottom line in all of this is that as a believer, look at all that God has done for us. And He has called us to Himself to…I think of the testimony of Enoch, which is in…I think it’s the eleventh chapter of Hebrews: “He pleased God.” That’s what it’s all about. Pleasing God. Doing things His way. His wisdom is perfect. And we quoted from 2 Peter:1:3: “He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness so that we can live our lives in a way that’s pleasing to him.” That’s what it’s all about.
Gary: Yes. I would say, too, years ago, when I was just beginning in ministry, I wanted to help people, so I was [studying for] a Master’s Degree in psychology, trying to figure out how to help people. After two or three courses, I realized that none of this was biblical, so I dropped out and got involved in various other things to help me understand it, and just a kind of little plug toward your guys’ ministry, I heard David Hunt at a conference, and he was talking about God’s truth – exactly what we’re talking about today. And how God has given us His truth. We don’t need all these other things. And that was the right moment at the right time that God used that in my life maybe 30 years ago to just click…bring it home. This other stuff is unnecessary. God has given us the truth He wants us to have. We need to be students of His truth.
And that’s the heart of what I believe in my ministry, and I know it is yours. And I just want to throw that in there, because that was a defining moment in my life.
Tom: Regarding this subject, just in general – psychological counseling, psychotherapy, and so on – as we started and mentioned in our first program, it has no scientific basic whatsoever! Folks! You’ve got to understand that.
Now, when I speak about this subject – my dad was a psychiatrist; I grew up in the mental health community, but I have no academic training in this. I don’t need it. All I need to do is if I want to look to the side of so-called science, I look to the researchers, and they…and we’ve talked about this…they are saying over and over again, folks, “This doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. You may be influenced by this. It doesn’t work. There’s no basis for it for working – for helping you out. It creates more problems for you.” That’s the researchers who are saying that. So why aren’t – you mentioned Minirth and Meier and others – why aren’t these guys listening to the research? Well, number one, they’d be out of business, because it’s not effective, and it can’t be.
Now, Gary, what about a methodology? Come on! Isn’t there a methodology in Scripture that’s going to help us?
Gary: Well, I think there is! I think, first of all, we get saved.
Tom: That’s right.
Gary: And that’s called “regeneration.” God gives us a new nature, and now we have the capacity through the Holy Spirit to understand and discern God’s Word and truth, and grow. And the second thing is just general sanctification. We usually call it “progressive sanctification.” Now we grow.
As I did a study on this some years ago, what are the tools that God actually uses – what methods does He actually use to sanctify us? To help us grow? And as I looked at that – I was doing that in research, especially for this book that I wrote on the Spiritual Formation Movement that has all of these disciplines, that most of them are Roman Catholic in their…and were not biblical. And as I looked at it carefully, there’s only a few things that the Lord specifically says will cause us to grow in Christ. And the principal one is the Word of God.
Gary: Prayer is there, fellowship of God’s body, but after that you start scratching around, you don’t have much there. The Word of God is over and over and over…if you want to grow, you must be a student of the Word of God. But as you said early on – maybe even in the last program – most people, the big issue that you ask them about is their walk with God, and I would say most every time, when you deal with people with these kinds of issues, if they’re honest, they’re going to say, “I don’t have a walk with God. I’m not reading the Bible, I’m not meditating, I’m not letting God change me.”
So, why do you have problem? There’s your problem!
So, God definitely has a methodology. And it’s just pretty simple: get saved, grow in the Lord – mainly through the Scriptures and the power of the Spirit.
Tom: And it’s the full counsel of God, as you said: “He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” His instructions are there for living a life that can be fruitful and productive, that can be a blessing.
And that’s where I want to go…we’ve just got about three minutes left, Gary. That’s the prevention program, isn’t it? That’s the antidote for whatever issue – look: if the issue is physiological…but we’re talking about AA with so-called addictions. We’re talking about sin, and that can be dealt with. But…
Gary: Yeah, that’s what God tells us! If it’s physical, it’s a disease, you deal with it on that level. But spiritually, which is what we’re talking about, the Lord wasn’t blind to all this. People almost act like, well, what’d the Lord do before AA came along, and psychology? Well, He already had the solution.
Tom: I’ve been talking with Gary Gilley. And I love my brother’s heart in this in dealing with these issues, and it’s just growing exponentially, and as we mentioned before, part of the reason – maybe the major reason – why many in the church are being deluded and deceived by this, and not discounting the issues that they’re going through – it’s because they’re not in the Word. They’re not trusting the Lord. They’re not seeing Him change their lives. Look, if they have salvation, if they’re true believers, they have eternal life in Christ. But then, Gary, pick up on this – then there’s sanctification. There’s the changing of our life to conform to the image of Christ, right?
Gary: Right. And so that…but you know, Tom, this is not being taught today in churches. So new believers, and those that have truly been saved through one method or one place or the other, they’re not being told the simple things we’re talking about here. They’re being told almost everything else. So, I think the average believer today really has no concept of how to grow in the things of the Lord, and to me that’s tragic. As a pastor, that’s what pastors ought to be doing. That’s what churches ought to be doing. And we’re not doing a very good job at that. We’re doing everything else.
Tom: And, especially in these last days! Apostasy is growing. It’s everywhere. We’ve got to get back to the Word of God, folks! I’m speaking to my own heart, and I’m sure Gary, the same. So, Gary, it’s been a pleasure having you on, and then talking about this really important subject. So, God bless you, bro, and thanks for being with us.
Gary: Oh, I enjoyed it. Thank you.
Gary C: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, Oregon, 97708; call us at 800-937-6638; or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we hope you can tune in again next week. Until then, we encourage you to search the Scriptures 24/7.