Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
We’re continuing our discussion with Martin and Deidre Bobgan, the authors of 12 Steps to Destruction: Co-dependency Recovery Heresies. Our topic is the growing development of twelve steps programs in the church to solve so-called addiction problems, which run the gamut from alcohol to overeating to sexual perversions. In our last segment—and Gary’s going to tell you later in the program how you can order this entire series, so if you missed last week, he’ll give you that information. In this segment of our last program we were talking—really, evaluating—the 12-Steps. We covered Step 1, but now I want to pick right up with Step 2.
Oh, by the way, welcome, Martin and Deidre; it’s really a pleasure to have you guys on the program.
Deidre: Thank you.
Martin: Glad to be back.
Tom: Okay, Step 2: “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Now, on what basis would Bill Wilson say that? And on what authority? And does it really bear out with regard to the research? Martin, can you address that?
Martin: Well, first, the claims made by AA itself, the organization and individuals, are gigantically inflated. In fact, the forward to the second edition of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “Of alcoholics who came to AA and really tried, fifty percent got sober at once and remained that way. Twenty-five percent sobered up after some relapses, and, among the remainder, those who stayed on with AA showed improvement.” Now, these are based upon impressions. They are not based upon collective research. So, we have to go to the researchers to see what they have to say.
There is a chapter in a book having to do with the alcoholism treatment and the chapter title is: “The Effectiveness of Alcoholism Treatment: What Research Reveals.” Here’s what they say: “In spite of the fact that it inspires nearly universal acclaim and enthusiasm among alcoholism treatment personnel in the United States, Alcoholics Anonymous wholly lacks experimental support for its efficacy.” Then these authors go into various research studies made—I’m not going to quote any of them, but when they go through these various programs they conclude that the research reveals no advantage for AA, and after going through all the studies, they conclude as follows: “Given the absence of a single controlled evaluation supporting the effectiveness of AA [and the presence of these negative findings which they reported], however, we must conclude that at the present time the alleged effectiveness of AA remains unproved.”
Tom: Martin, I think I got this quote from your book—actually you took it from the Harvard Medical School Mental Health Review, and I’m quoting: “Most recovery from alcohol is not the result of treatment. Probably no more than 10 percent of alcohol-abusers are ever treated at all, but as many as 40 percent recover spontaneously.
Deidre: Yes, and there is another statement by Stanton Peele, Dr. Stanton Peele, in his book, Diseasing of America: “Several studies have shown that those who quit drinking via AA actually have higher relapse rates than those who quit on their own.”
Tom: Now, again, this is not stuff we are making up, folks, I want you to understand this. This is information that’s available, and this is how we got it—because it’s available, and we took the time to do the research. Most people don’t, but as you say, Deidre, people just assume, and it’s on the basis of testimony. And we aren’t saying that some people aren’t helped—there are many testimonies out there—but overall, the program, just from an efficacy . . . from solving the problem of drunkenness—it helps some, but it doesn’t for the most part.
Back to the Step 2, that’s certainly what we just mentioned deals with the research that’s out there with regard to does this work. But, on a spiritual note, what does this mean? “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Now, what would be the basis for that, and what would a power greater than ourselves be?
Deidre: Well, it’s any power that anybody concocts in his mind that is greater. He can find it out in the religious world, or he can even make it up himself. There have been people who have decided that the power greater than himself is the tree sitting in front of my house. And what it really ends up being, because it is so broad as to the person then saying, in the next step, by the way, as “God as we understand him,” although now it would be “as we understand him or her”—the whole idea is that this is not based on a solid foundation of Scripture. It is based upon anybody’s idea of any higher power.
Tom: So, those who are saying, “Well, we’re Christians, and we participated in this, and we call our higher power Jesus Christ”—it seems to me they are avoiding the fact that the organization that they’re involved in opens the door to any god, any idol, any—you know, you can be an agnostic, an atheist. How can they reconcile, from a Christian perspective—because they call themselves Christians—how can they really reconcile this form of idolatry and participate in it?
Deidre: Well, you know, we can justify all kinds of things, and that’s what people do. But if a person in an AA meeting were to say that “Jesus Christ is the only way, and that is the only way for salvation,” then, the person will be rejected, possibly asked to leave, and so they don’t want to hear that Jesus is the only way to the Father. They are committed to the idea that it’s fine if one person believes in Jesus, it’s fine if another person . . . it’s pretty much like a democratic society, where you believe the way you believe, I believe the way I believe, and we are all here together. And so it is not an organization based upon one God.
Tom: So really, that’s contradictory to the whole idea that Bill Wilson is bringing forth here. “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” but if you can believe in anything, or you don’t have to believe in anything, what’s the point of all of this? It just seems contradictory.
Martin: Well, the worldly programs—the programs that are really standard AA Steps 1 to 12—you have a real contradiction of the Bible. Now, the ones that are more difficult to deal with are those that will turn that Step 2 into believing not in a power greater than ourselves but specifically in Jesus Christ, who can restore us to—and the word there is “sanity,” but let’s call it “to abstinence” or whatever word you want to put in. But, these programs we have to deal with also because what they’re doing is they’re modeling the AA 12-Steps, and you have to go back and find out, okay, who did the 12-Steps, as we have priorly discussed? Bill Wilson, how did he get there? Well, through his Edgar Caycee type readings . . .
Tom: Through occultic means, right . . .
Martin: . . . and then actually going through an occult method of coming up with the 12-Steps. And so, why would we dip into a 12-Steps program according to the Alcoholics Anonymous developed by this man, who has such a questionable background—and also, this includes Bob Smith, because others say, “Well, Bob Smith was a Christian”? And, if you go through the background of Bob Smith, you find the same kind of a background—séances, use of the Ouija board, etc., etc. And, then even as a church man, the kind of literature that Bob Smith was interested in was the kind of literature that we would regard as literature that’s totally outside the scripture and much of what he read, that inspired him, had to do with New Age thinking.
Tom: Martin, one of the things that’s hit me in this, if a person is a Christian and is saying that AA and the 12-Steps are okay, as AA implements them, what we have here is really a rejection that there is one true God.
Deidre: That’s true.
Tom: And, basically, we are setting up an altar here, a place to come—look at it this way: there’s an altar there and although we believe in one true God, all the gods are there, whatever god, as you mentioned before—and we’ll get to Step 3—“God as we understand Him to be,” which may be totally false, so far removed from the true and living God, that we have an ecumenical religion here, a religion of any gods, all gods are worthwhile . . . how can a Christian participate in this?
Deidre: Well, a Christian really is reducing Jesus Christ to one of many gods. He’s reducing Him to a member of the pantheon of gods. He is reducing Him to one of the many deities of Hinduism, because if you’re a Hindu you can add Jesus to your many deities. In other words . . .
Tom: Sure. Or Baha’i for example.
Deidre: Yes, and he is really violating the person of Jesus Christ.
Martin: Well, what happens, though, is somebody has a sin that he’s involved in—alcoholism, very serious sin.
Tom: Drunkenness, right.
Martin: He seeks help. And he goes to his pastor, and he says, “What help can you give me?” and, in most cases the pastor will refer him out, not into the church, not to a man who is in the church who can . . . who, being mature in the faith, can minister to the individual. And so, part of the problem lies in the individual pastors, the individual churches, in that they are not willing to accept what the Bible has to say about man and how to deal with problems of living and, specifically, how to deal with sins. Because if a man is committing a sin, whatever the sin is, and he has a need for transformation, we always begin by asking and finding out if he’s converted to begin with, as Deidre has said prior, and what we want to know is, what can we bring to this man’s life in terms of sanctification to cause him to step away, to choose to take that step away from the sin that he is committing called alcoholism?
Tom: Martin, I want to go on to Step 3—it’s pretty much related to what we have been talking about. It beings: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him.” God, as we understood him. Now, my understanding of AA, that is, you can bring any god, and any god is acceptable as long as it does not diminish the value of the god of any other member of AA. So, we’ve got a problem here if we’re trying to just uphold Jesus Christ.
Martin: Yeah, you see AA claims to be spiritual but not religious. And the distinction there is carried throughout the 12 Steps, and spirituality is something general, it’s generic, it’s ecumenical, it’s pantheistic, and so on. But if you become a religion, then religion makes certain claims; and, specifically, if you become biblical, the claims rest on Jesus Christ and who He is, and that specificity is not found in any of the steps of the 12-Steps. And so a person is going to make a decision to turn his will and life over to the care of God as we understand him or her. And so, it’s kind of an individual choice as to who God is, and it’s an individual choice to commit himself to turning his will and life over to the god that he has created.
Tom: Yeah, so it rejects the exclusivity of the Bible. The Bible claims to be God’s Word. It doesn’t put up with other ideas and, certainly, you know, we, as fallen individuals, as finite beings, we don’t know everything about God, but we can’t just make things up and expect the God of the Bible, the God of all creation, to respond to our erroneous ideas, our false beliefs about Him. I don’t see it happening.
Deidre: Well, you know, II Corinthians 6:14-17, really speaks to this issue. Jesus said—well, actually, His followers said—Paul, at the time, “Be not equally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”
And, for a professing Christian to be a member of AA actually yokes Jesus and yokes himself, actually, with unbelievers. And he does this through calling any and all gods a higher power. And, Christ, the Christ, or let’s say the god that another person has sitting next to him may be Satan himself.
Tom: Why not? If it’s open to whatever god that you conceive in your own mind, well, it may be a god that appeals to you, and it’s going to end up, more times than not, being the god of this world, Satan himself.
Deidre: And, Satan will appear as an angel of light, and any spirit there—any god who is not God—is a representative if not of Satan, if not Satan himself. You are really sitting in a group of people who are worshiping Satan.
Tom: Well, that may be hard for some people, but our point here is that if you can bring any god that you want, and it’s not the true and living God, who else could it be but the adversary to God? You know, that really brings us to Step 4, which says: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” and some Christians would say, “Well, that’s a good thing. They are checking themselves out to see where they stand morally. But if their authority is really themselves as to what’s moral and what’s not moral, you’re back into this subjective basis for how you’re going to live your life. Certainly, you’re not holding the authority of God’s Word up as the standard for which you are to live, right?
Deidre: Yes, and also again, here, what we are doing is we are having the person do it rather than the Lord. It says, “Search me, O God, and know me, see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me into life everlasting.” And so, unless it is the Lord, together with the person, searching the heart—and what good does it do to search the heart if there is no remission of sin? If there is no sacrifice for sin? So, what they do is they search their hearts, they think of the things that they’ve done that are wrong, and then, what are they going to do with them? And, the very next step, what they’re going to do is tell everybody about them.
Now, this is one of the things that AA picked up from the Oxford Group.
Tom: Well, let me spell out . . . let me jump in with Step 5. I’m going to read 5, 6, and 7, is that okay?
Tom: But, Deidre, I want to go back to something you said. Again, we’re asking what authority are people going to, to even evaluate whether what they’re doing is moral, immoral, right, or wrong, if they are the ones in charge? But if they turn to the Word of God as their authority, we know Hebrews:4:12 says, “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” You know, the scripture says that our heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it? But God’s Word, through the Holy Spirit, can bring true conviction of sin in our lives. But if we’re left to our own devices, you know, we are going to wash over so many things.
Deidre: And the true conviction of true sin, and the true remission, the true sacrifice, in place of our own having to suffer the eternal consequences.
Tom: I’m going to read Step 5, 6, and 7, because they are really grouped here. “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” This is Step 6: “We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character,” and, Step 7, humbly ask him to remove our shortcomings.” Now this sounds, I mean, it sounds very spiritual, it sounds good, but what’s the problem here?
Deidre: The problem here—when we get back to 5—and now you are going to admit to another human being, and what happens in the meetings and also to the sponsor, the person will then talk about his sins or whatever he does. And, you know, this goes back to the Oxford Group Movement. This was a movement that was very ecumenical. You could believe almost anything in the group, but it was very “moral based” in the sense that everybody was trying to be a pure person, a good person, and, as a matter of fact, the Oxford Group eventually became Moral Rearmament. They were trying to be very moral, but, one of their methods was, they would gather together in various homes, and they would share their sins. And some of the meetings would become very, very interesting because of the extent—I mean, who needed television in those days, because they would have these lurid stories of people’s exploits and so forth?
The problem with confessing sin to a group, or a person that we did not sin against directly, is that this is not scriptural. In scripture we are to confess to God, we are to confess to the person, and there are times when we may need, in guidance, to confess to a fellow believer who may be able to offer spiritual guidance through the Bible. But you see, in the meetings they relieve themselves—you know, if you talk about something and everybody still loves you and everybody is supportive of you and all of that, then it relieves you of the guilt, temporarily, but it does not take care of the sin. Unless there is remission of sin, that sin is there, and then, as they share with one another, they are receiving things that are not good for them.
Tom: Going on to Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” Now, that’s not to say that these aren’t good things to do, but we’ve got to do them in a way that’s consistent with God’s Word. Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Deidre: That’s very reasonable, and you see, this is one of the good things. We can’t say that the whole program is evil; you have to have something good in it to appeal.
Tom: But again, this is a methodology, which, as we mentioned earlier in the program and last week, that God doesn’t lay things out in a methodology. A by-the-numbers way of solving problems is not true to God’s Word. It destroys relationships, and it can involve all kinds of things that are problematic. Step 10: “Continued to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”
Deidre: Then you have to say, what is your authority for what was right and wrong?
Tom: Exactly. Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Deidre: Yes. Well, when it comes right down to it, if we form our own god, we create our own god, we create our own morality, then, in a way, we’re our own god.
Tom: And prayer and meditation. If the Hindu approach is fine, if the Buddhist approach is fine, if any occult approach is fine, we have, basically, the endorsement of occultism here. Step 12: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in our own affairs.” Martin, that’s the last step, is it any better than any of the other ones?
Martin: Well, again, all of these steps have problems. Again, the origin of the 12 Steps, the application—we have only one name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. And as you start out with the AA, we start out with any god you want—it’s a pantheon of gods. And as you go through these steps, what you see is a reference to God, another reference to God, a seeming reference to the Bible, but it’s maybe something that sounds like the Bible, but we’re absent of the God of the Bible, and we’re absent of the salvation of the Bible, and we’re absent of the sanctification of the Bible, and so we have here, from the first step to the twelfth step, we have a worldly way of doing things, which is really a worldly religion and an all-encompassing world religion that encompasses all kinds of faiths! And so, whether you start at Step 1 or end at Step 12, what you have is a false system that will minister to the flesh but it will not minister to the spirit of man, which is the deepest and most significant and consequential part of man that one has to deal with.