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. As Gary mentioned, our program for this week and for next week will address our concerns over the increasing use of twelve-steps programs in the church. Dave is away on speaking engagements, so to save you from having to listen to me for the whole hour, I’m excited to have back on our program, Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Martin and Deidre, welcome!
Deidre: Thank you! Good to be with you.
Martin: Thank you.
Tom: Now, I am sure that many of our listeners remember the three-part series we did with you on Psychology in the Church, which we continue to get requests for, and which, Gary, later in the program, will tell our audience how they can order that series as well as this two-part series. Before we get going on our topic, Martin and Deidre, tell us a little bit about your ministry, Psychoheresy Awareness, and the what and why of some of the books you’ve written.
Martin: Well, Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries was started after we did our book, Psychoheresy, and the focus and concern of the ministry is the psychologizing of the faith, and that kind of works into almost every one of these seventeen books that we have done in some fashion or another. And these books are books that we have done, not only under our own publishing name, Eastgate, but also, we’ve done books in the past for Moody Press, Bethany House, and Harvest House. And so, the ministry is really based on confronting the psychologizing of the faith in Bible colleges, seminaries, churches, in books, and wherever it exists.
Tom: Martin and Deidre, can you give us a little bit about your background? People are looking for credibility. Why would you approach something like this and on what basis?
Martin: Well, my original orientation was that I grew up in a family that was un-churched, and I was the usual collegiate man who had his trinity of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud and Darwin. And, after my conversion, I went from darkness—that darkness—into light and the light of God’s Word, the light of the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. And when I received the Holy Spirit, when I committed myself to Christ and He to me, what happened at that point is I already had four college degrees, including a doctorate in educational psychology and was in the field of education, and so I continued on during the years we have been writing books having to do with the subject.
Tom: Deidre, how about you?
Deidre: Well, you know, it’s been interesting to watch Martin’s transformation in this, because both of us really had so much faith in psychology. And I remember going with him to some of his classes. His professors were really wonderful; they would let me audit the classes. And so, I remember going from, “Ooh, Freud, how wonderful he was!” And then, Adler and Jung and all these, and pretty soon it was like, wait a minute! Which way is the true way? Because these systems were not the same—they were going in different directions; they looked at man as from a different perspective. It was not like science, where you have a foundation of some kind of reality where you build one thing on top of another. Instead, it really ended up being a lot of opinions of various people and stated in such a way, in such an intellectual way, and with all kinds of support of case studies and subjectivity. and yet, subjectivity treated as though it were objective.
And, even then, even though I saw the discrepancies, I kept thinking, you know, there has got to be something there because people keep going after it. And, it took quite a while for me to realize that there wasn’t anything there, because, as we kept looking at it, as we kept looking at the research, the efficacy research—people don’t realize that the research does not support the use of psychotherapy any more than people just talking to one another. Even the research has flaws in it, because we are, again, in a subjective area.
So, we found that . . . I grew up in a church home, and yet, I did not understand the cross, I did not understand the rebirth, I did not understand that He totally died for all my sins. And when I came into a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and began to study the Bible—and the Bible just opened up—It was like: Here is the answer! It truly was, going from darkness, or semi-darkness, into light.
Tom: You know, it’s amazing, when we consider the Bible, sometimes we forget that it’s the Manufacturer’s Handbook. God, who wants to have a relationship with us, wouldn’t leave us to our own devices to figure out how to go about that, or we would be left with just everybody’s opinion. But He has laid it out and that’s really going to be our encouragement in this two-part series. Of the seventeen books you’ve written, the one we’re going to focus on today and our program next week is Twelve Steps to Destruction, which really is going to deal with AA and 12-Steps, but also, the subtitle is . . .
Martin: Co-dependency Recovery Heresies . . .
Tom: . . . and whereas—well, we’re sort of going to focus on, in these two weeks, primarily, the 12-Steps itself, where it originated, and the reason is, that 12-Steps programs (as perhaps many of our listeners are aware) . . . it’s really taken over, almost, in terms of ministering in the church, counseling in the church, and so on. And it’s really displaced what we believe—and, as I think we’ll demonstrate in these two programs—it has displaced the grace of God. It has displaced our turning to God’s Word for the problems that we have in life.
Deidre: That has really happened. We have noticed this so dramatically. When we first started talking about the problems with psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies being brought into the church, people would ask us: Well, what about the twelve steps? And eventually, we thought, All right, we’d better look into this, and so we did. We read numerous books, and much of what we read had been put out by . . . they were official AA books, so we weren’t just taking other people’s opinions; we were going to the source. And what we found was a number of very serious problems. At first, we thought, Well, AA is good because people are helping people. They are not paying professional fees for something that doesn’t work, and, of course, we initially believed all of the “propaganda,” one might call it—all of the statements about how this really works. And so we thought we’d better look into it.
Tom: Deidre, it’s primarily testimonials, and you get excited when somebody says, even on an individual basis, that it helped them. But can we do this? Let’s go back to—because 12- Steps really began in Alcoholics Anonymous—can we go back to the basis of how the 12-Steps came about and going back to even Bill Wilson, who is one of the founders of AA, his problem, and how he came to a solution to the problem?
Martin: Yeah, the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, which began in 1935, were Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. And the thing that happened with Bill Wilson is what we really want to concentrate on. And we have to kind of pick up a thread of his background and how he came to do the 12-Steps. Bill Wilson was a drunkard—I know we use the word, alcoholic, and alcoholic is a euphemism for a drunkard, but he was a drunkard, and he, over and over and over again, resorted to this drinking problem of his.
And at one point he met a doctor, Doctor William D. Silkworth, and Silkworth had an allergy theory of alcoholism. And—I am quoting Silkworth—Silkworth said, “The action of alcohol on chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy,” and Wilson’s biography kind of indicates what impact this had on Bill Wilson. It says the following (I am quoting): “Bill listened, entranced as Silkworth explained his theory. For the first time in his life, Bill was hearing about alcoholism, not as a lack of will power, not as a moral defect, but as a legitimate illness.”
Now even after that, Wilson was not able to maintain his sobriety, even though he had this information and had concluded that alcoholism was a disease. He went from one drinking bout to another until he met a man whose name is E. B. Thatcher. Thatcher was an old drinking buddy of Wilson’s and Thatcher wasn’t drinking anymore, and his reason he wasn’t drinking anymore, in Thatcher’s words were, “I’ve got religion.” And, he told Wilson that he prayed, and God released him of the desire to drink. And he had peace of mind, happiness, and he hadn’t known this ecstasy for years and so on.
When Wilson and Thatcher discussed this, at the end of the meeting Wilson agreed to return to the hospital for detoxification. This is where he got connected with the Oxford group, which we can talk about later, and it’s one of the reasons why people think that the group originated from a Christian group and that both Wilson and Smith were Christians because they were in that group. But anyway, what happened is that in this particular hospital experience, Wilson had come to the end of himself. And he thought about what Thatcher said, and, in Wilson’s own words, he gagged badly on the notion of a power greater than himself. And, he got to such extreme limit that he said, he shouted out: “If there is a God, let him show himself—I am ready to do anything.”
Now here, in his own words, are his experience and you compare this with a faith in Jesus Christ—the salvation we know about from scripture. He said the following: “Suddenly my room blazed with an indescribable white light. I was seized with an ecstasy beyond description! Every joy I had known was pale by comparison. The light, the ecstasy—I was conscious of nothing else for a time.” He went on to say, “This must be the great reality, the God of the preachers.” He goes on and says, “For the first time I felt that I really belonged.” He goes on and describes this experience, and then, from there, we have to go to the fact that Bill Wilson and Bob Smith had engaged in what we would call, the occult. They were doing séances, they were doing all kinds of other things, and we have a regular trail of this right up to the time that Wilson does the 12 Steps. Preceding that is the fact that Wilson was doing . . . he was receiving messages, he was doing readings like Edgar Cayce would do.
Tom: Martin, can I back you up just a little bit? Just to go over some elements—so, Wilson had a drinking problem. He was told by this medical doctor, with really no basis nor support for it, but the problem he had according to this doctor’s view was that this was a disease that he had, right?
Martin: It was an allergy.
Tom: An allergy, right. And then he meets this other guy who, and because even though as some people believe and maybe it’s a premise of psychology, that if you know the problem you can solve the problem. That doesn’t always happen.
Deidre: If you know better, you can do better.
Tom: Right. But once he finds somebody who has this spiritual experience, then he goes through a spiritual experience, but then he has to try and figure out what’s the basis for this. And, really, where I’m going here is, he’s leaning upon a man who is probably known as the father of modern psychology, and that’s William James, the Harvard psychologist and philosopher.
Deidre: Yes, instead of going to the Bible, he went to William James’s book, The Varieties of Religious Experience. Now, William James was 1842 to 1910 and is considered the father of American psychology. And he was intrigued with mystical and existential experiences. People would report these to him, and he was very fascinated about it. Now, he didn’t care about the religious persuasion of mystics as long as they achieved a personal experience. He was fascinated by people who experienced these kinds of things. And so he wrote this: “In mystic states, we both become one with the absolute and we become aware of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition hardly offered by differences of clime or creed, in Hinduism, in Neo-Platonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, and Whitmanism, we find the same recurring notes, so that there is about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity.”
So, Wilson went to William James for the explanation rather than to the Bible. And so here what we see is—you see, Bill Wilson’s experience fit William James’s description more than anything in scripture. So he grabbed hold of that, and what he continued to look for his entire life and work with AA was anything that would bring a person into the spiritual realm. That’s why he went into the idea of spiritism, séances, necromancy, speaking with the dead; and he had various experiences of meeting with various spirit guides.
Tom: Deidre, so he has this experience, and now he is trying to find the reason for it. And he finds, through William James, that, unlike Thatcher (who may have been a true believer, and Christ may have delivered him from his drinking problem), but as far as Wilson is concerned, other people have these kinds of experiences, and that sort of opened the door for some elements, which we will get to in a minute, of the 12-Steps. You don’t have to be a Christian, you just have to need a higher power, and you just need to get into some spiritual experience to help deliver you from your problem. Is that right?
Deidre: “A spiritual experience to deliver you from your problem.” In fact, that was one of the elements so strong, that Wilson even experimented with LSD and various other means of kind of contacting spirits. So, what we have is a spiritual beginning and also, now, a progression of spirituality that is something that must be available to everybody, no matter what—whether they’re a Christian or not. And then, the methodology came out of that experience.
Martin: And as I’ve mentioned about his Edgar Cayce-like receiving messages and writing them down, it was out of this, and this is how Wilson describes the actual doing of the 12-Steps, and it’s described in this way: “He asked for guidance, he relaxed, the words began tumbling out with astonishing speed. He completed the first draft in about half an hour, then kept on writing until he felt he should stop and review what he had written. Numbering the new steps he found that they added up to twelve. A symbolic number, he thought, of the twelve apostles, and soon became convinced that the society should have twelve steps.” But the background for this writing, of course, came out of his experiences in the séances, the use of the Ouija board, the Edgar Cayce-type readings, and then finally leading up to this development of the 12-Steps.
Deidre: He also claims to have had help from the other side, from the spiritual realm. When he was writing the 12-Steps and 12 traditions, he said that there was . . . he would receive help from a monk who had died many years ago by the name of Boniface, and this spirit would guide him as he was working. So, we would have to ask, what spirit? Not the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit does not work through necromancy; the Holy Spirit does not work through the Ouija board. The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God.
Tom: And the Word of God condemns all of these attempts that Bill Wilson was using trying to—he was trying to contact spirits. Well, there are lying, deceiving spirits out there, and that’s one of the reasons God’s Word tells us very clearly . . . “Don’t get into that, don’t put yourself in that position.” Now, this is far more, because we know people who have said, Well, this isn’t really true; it wasn’t really that bad! He was just inspired like anybody else is inspired. But you’re not making this up, you guys! This is all documented in the biographies, the background, to AA and 12-Steps.
Deidre: That’s right. We have it all documented in our book, and these are books that were put out by the official . . . we get this from the official sources from AA and other people who are promoting AA. In other words, we’re not getting this information from other people who aren’t necessarily concerned.
Tom: Okay, let’s go right to the 12-steps themselves. I’ll begin with the first one.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Now the doctor who first ministered to Bill Wilson, as we mentioned, said this was a disease. Is there any basis for that?
Martin: No, there isn’t a basis for that at all. As a matter of fact, there is a professor at the University of California, Dr. Herbert Fingerette, who did a book, Heavy Drinking, the Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease. And in his book he refutes the idea that this medical model that has been not only developed by Bill Wilson originally, but unfortunately it’s been adopted by the American Medical Association, and it’s a tragic thing that the AMA has gone off in the direction of endorsing something like this.
But Herbert Fingerette says in his book that I just mentioned—he says that the public has been profoundly misled with respect to alcoholism as a disease, and it’s still being actively misled. He goes on to say a number of things about the scientific evidence over the decades, etc., etc., and he speaks about the reason why a lot of this is promoted is because you have a vast network of lobbies, national, local, professional, volunteer, and a lot of people are now involved in this, so it is very difficult to deal with this disease concept now that it’s been so deeply entrenched. He says, “The disease concept of alcoholism not only has no basis in current science, it has never [in italics] had a scientific justification.”
Tom: So, this isn’t disease—it’s really behavior.
Martin: Now, related to a disease concept, there’s a psychiatrist, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, and he says—and is concerned about labeling something a disease that’s a behavior—he says very simply, “Disease is something you have; a behavior is something you do, and they have switched what they do to what they have.” In other words, their behavior, drinking, is now a disease instead of a behavior to be confronted and to be corrected.
Tom: You know, on the one hand, Step 1, the person is admitting that they have a problem, but it’s the powerlessness over it that’s the problem. Also, if it’s a disease, as we have said, how can anybody be held accountable? I mean, if I catch a cold because somebody sneezes on me, and I didn’t do anything to draw it, where does biblical accountability come into play?
Deidre: Well, the whole psychological realm has opened up this whole disease mentality so that all kinds of behaviors now are labeled diseases. And alcoholism, I think, drunkenness, now called a disease, was one of the reasons why this, I think, has opened up so broadly.
Tom: You know, you quote Stanton Peale in your book, Twelve Steps to Destruction. Let me give our listeners this quote: “Disease conceptions of misbehavior are bad science and are morally and intellectually sloppy. Biology is not behavior, even in those areas where a drug or alcohol is taken into the body. Once we treat alcoholism and addiction as disease, we cannot rule out that anything people do [that] they shouldn’t, is a disease, from crime to excessive sexual activity to procrastination.” Should be pretty clear. If we go this route, we’re really on the road to undermining the truth of God’s Word.
Deidre: We really do. And we can turn to the Word, and the Word does refer to drunkenness as behavior, and when people come to know the Lord, they can have freedom. Not that it’s an automatic thing, but the Lord enables them to make changes in their behavior. And, the interesting thing is, if it were truly a disease, why would you need the rest of the steps?
Martin: Yeah, and if it’s truly a disease that you have no control over, why is it that every program—every program before you enter it—you must stop drinking?