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Alcoholics Anonymous, Unconscious Model for Church and Community

By Lester Robinson,2014-05-11 20:50
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Alcoholics Anonymous, Unconscious Model for Church and Community

    Alcoholics Anonymous, Unconscious Model for Ideal Community

    Draft 6/27/00

    Thanks much for your piece on AA…I learned a great deal from your paper,

     and will use it if I ever write on this topic againPhilip Yancey

    Thank you for your writing on AA as a model for Christian community. I think it is simply magnificent…

    I love what you have written and have benefited from it‖Eugene Peterson

Alcoholics Anonymous, Unconscious Model for Ideal Community

Draft, June 27, 2000

ote: Much has been written about AA, its principles and people. Hundreds of books, pamphlets N

    and articles have been written about the movement and how it works. It is not my attempt, nor am I qualified, to add to this gigantic informational database. My fascination lies in another area. As a Christian, I am very interested in how community should work. Henri Nouwen, author and Catholic priest, spent the last years of his life seeking the community priority. Living with handicapped people, he attempted to capture a glimpse of community through shared experience within ―lateral,‖ ―reciprocal‖ relationships. Lateral diversity working in true unity.

     My best experience of community has been within the meeting rooms of AA. Why is this? What is implicit within this societyone having no rules, regulations or penaltiesthat grants so

    many thousands such peace of mind and quality of life? I believe AA has been gifted with some principlesexclusive to none and available to everyonethat produce an atmosphere of true grace

    and a close ideal of what, I think, the Christian community should be. It is another ―divine paradox‖ (Karl Barth) that such an unlikely group of people as that of former drunks should share in the knowledge of these principles (I‘ve never seen a more grandiose and narcissistic bunch of people

    anywhere, and that would include myself). These observations I share from my own experience.

Forward

―Come, Lord Jesus‖ –St. John the Apostle

     In what spirit did the apostle John speak these words? Did he speak them with the sentiment of a Zionist Jewor were they said in the spirit of a recovering Christian?

     There is great affinity between Zionism and fundamentalist Christianity. Both groups are future focused. Both desire to see Messiah King return to earth, right all wrongs and finally establish justice and peace on earth through the administration of a powerful, law-based ―kingdom

    of God‖. It is a power stance and the great focus is an outward one. For this economy to work, ―the spirit of absolute moral perfection‖ (Oswald Chambers) must reign everywhere. In this system it is

    imperative that we judge, condemn and reject the ―bad‖ parts of our selves (psychologist John Bradshaw calls this a rejection of the self). To facilitate this we must take our dark, dysfunctional parts and project them in merciless judgment on others (this never really works and we end up beating ourselves up anyway). This is the stuff of which ethnic cleansing and genocide are made.

    This system is the epitome of the ―us and them‖ mentality: the heathen must either be

    conquered or saved. Zionism sees saints as Israel ruling with Messiah on the earth; Fundamentalism sees saints as Christians ruling with him. To this end, these odd bedfellows have an almost fanatical interest in seeing the Jewish Temple rebuilt. Temple mentality represents the apex of illegitimate hierarchy—a power system the apostle Paul called the ―administration of death.‖ God may allow such a thing to occur, if only to let it break downas all judgment must eventually dounder its

    own weight.

     But Jesus also spoke of another administrationthis one based, not on power, but on

    poverty. This kingdom operates in the ―now.‖ It is the ―I AM‖ God with whom we each have

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    personally and internally to do. No legalism or priest-craft economy permitted to block vital one-on-one relationship with God and our dysfunctional selves, this group of recovering people is held together by the spirit of powerlessness and poverty (we authentically relate within community at our points of weakness, not our points of power and grandiosity).

    Living a better balance of inner Recovery and outwardly expressed Service, recovering people have always been a scattered and marginal group. For two thousand years a minority but growing view, it has existed in antagonism with the outwardly focused, organized spheres of power. This is the kingdom ―within‖ Jesus spoke about, motivated by the Spirit that like the wind, cannot be pigeon-holed, controlled, systematized, or organized. For such an economy to work, an atmosphere of absolute grace must reign everywhere, within our selves and without.

     Actually, both ―kingdoms‖ are at work in all of us and none of us can boast. Unfortunately, while human, we are ―split.‖ The unhealthy, unsanctified parts of our selves remain exclusive and

    alien to our fellow man. We naturally isolate from the rest of our fellows, sometimes to the extent that our sentiment is: ―Jihad!‖—Crush the enemy‖ (focusing on the enemy without is a great

    defense against dealing with the chaos within). Or, at the very least we live in a mood that says, ―May God come and crush the enemy.‖

     But the healthy, sanctified parts of our selves resist, continue to search inwardly, desire that God would search ―us‖ instead of ―them‖, strain to hear the voice of God and determine to know of

    his personal will for our lives. Hopefully, within all of us, this second kingdom Jesus spoke of will increase (and that other kingdom will decrease). In either case and in accordance with the sovereign decree of the Emmanuel Godwho is not only God with us, but also God in uswe learn lessons

    in the dark as well as the light.

     There is no condemnation to those who have received the good news and now experience the powers of this better ―inner‖ kingdom Jesus spoke of (they no longer beat themselves up as much). In reality, there is no condemnation, period, of anyone from the God view. Feelings of condemnation remain only the perception of those not yet called to recovery.

    Recovering people experience true empowerment and integration: the joy of accepting all the parts of themselves, good and bad. No more need to condemn and to project that condemnation on to others. The gospel proclaimed by such recovering people is always an attraction, never a promotion. Covert and subversive by its very nature, the authentic good news is graciously and relentlessly conveyed to hurting people everywhere. Of this kingdom there is no end.

    Love bade me welcome;

    Yet my soul drew back.

    Built of dust and sin.

    But quick-eye‘d love,

    Observing me grow slack

    From my first entrance in,

    Drew nearer to me,

    Sweetly questioning,

    If I lack‘d anything.

    George Herbert

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Irresistible, Emerging New Government

    ―…I will build my church‖ Jesus

    ―When He (Jesus) ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men‖ St.

    Paul

     The society of Alcoholics Anonymous is not the church. It is not the community. But it‘s a

    part of the great, cosmic Christian church that Christ established, a resource and a gift to it. No single organization has a corner on the market when it comes to God‘s gifts, and that includes AA (I enjoy other gifts of his in the different organized churches; varied styles of worship, etc.). But there is a concentration of many of these gifts in AA that, I think, make it worth writing about. These gifts fall under the general subjects of Recovery, Unity and Service, the ―Three Legacies‖ of AA.

    The model of AA to the church is an unconscious one; that is, AA does not project itself as being the ideal model I think it is. Were there to be a conscious understanding of this virtue it would be all overit would no longer be a virtue or ―gift‖ in the biblical sense. Such gifts are

    spontaneous, natural, spring from the heart of God and do not require the ―bearer‖ of the gift to

    strive or work in any way to produce their manifestation. Inclusive by nature, AA makes no exclusive claims that would spoil its attraction and thwart its primary purpose. Its loose ―government‖ is comprised of alcoholics, non-alcoholics, psychologists, pastors, priests and most

    every other kind of community member.

     ―Then the righteous will answer him saying, ‗when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?‘‖ Jesus.

     The striking thing is the dumbfounded response to the praises of Jesus. Key to service within community is its unconscious out-workings. Program and agenda are mostly power things; spontaneous sacrifice is heart motivated. If we are calculated in our giving, it‘s all over. ―Don‘t let

    your left hand know what your right hand is doing.‖

     On the other hand, it is impossible to serve in community without some level of self-awareness of that giving. So what does this mean and how does it fit within AA? My experience is that AA members serve in community, openly and unashamedly selfishly; that is, as a part of their ―program.‖ Often it is heard, ―My service and twelve-step work (offering ones experience, faith and

    hope to still suffering alcoholics) is helping me stay sober.‖ So, where‘s the unconscious stuff? Individual acts of service are not unconscious. The salient point is that the AA community as a

    whole doesn‘t understand the significance of its unique gifts, the model it portrays to the Christian Church and to community everywhere.

     The church is not fundamentally an ―official‖ organization (but many ―official‖ churches comprise it)but rather, a spiritual organization, united by the unseen Spirit of God. It is a Spirit that ―blows where it wishes…you cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes‖ according to Jesus. This is a warning against control, exclusivism and illegitimate hierarchy.

    As in any ―official‖ church, the Spirit of Christ unites AA members, in varying degree, according to ―a measure of faith‖ (Romans 12:3). And as each distinct corporate part of the church has its gifts to add to the greater cosmic church, so also does AA have it‘s to offer the ―Body‖ as

    well (Romans 12:4-6a).

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    ―Church‖ simply means, ―called out ones.‖ I like the term ―Body‖ that St. Paul alone among the Bible writers‘ uses. The other apostles and prophets speak of the ―Bride‖—using

    bride/groom, or husband/wife figures. ―Body‖ is a much more intimate term. ―Body‖ suggests

    implicit relationship, its various members relating by nature, diversity working in unity, even as do the various parts of the human body. It is in this sense that I use the word ―church‖—called out

    ones, united to some degree by the Spirit of God providing to it the nature and character of Jesus.

     ―It is finished‖ (John 19:30), and because the true gospel by nature is inclusive and not exclusive, many AA members revel and wallow in a gospel they know nothing about. They enjoy its benefits, even while not knowing the theology of it. According to Saint Paul, these relate to Christ, the Head of the church ―Body‖, by nature (Romans 2:14-15).

     The Spirit, or nature of God expresses through we humans in terms of ―gifts‖ and ―fruit‖.

    These are given to the various parts of the Body, or church. Each corporate part or ―official‖ organization in the greater church has its distinctly unique gifts for the blessing and edification of all. This is also true of Alcoholics Anonymous and it is these gifts I wish to address.

     ―God has appointed these in the church…gifts of healings, helps‖ (1 Corinthians 12:28).

     Early Community Experience

     ―Every sin meets with its due fate—inexorable expulsion from the paradise of God‘s

    humanity‖ (George Macdonald).

     We all crave community, consciously or unconsciously. Perhaps the most devastating and all pervasive manifestation of the ―fall‖ of human kind is the woeful lack of true, God intended community in the world. Never the less, every club, every fraternity, every church, every marriage, every friendship seeks to tap the deep rewards of community. That such effort often unravels into schism, pecking order and anarchy reveal our hopeless human condition unaided by God. Until the irrevocable move of God upon our liveshis irrepressible intervention—we continue to ―act out‖ in

    our idolatrous attempts to gain community. Our cheap substitutes include a host of mood-altering addictions: chemical, food, sexual and relational.

     I have always unconsciously craved community. My deepest desires sought it in my family of origin, but it wasn‘t there. Too much emotional abuse, manipulation, conditional ―love‖ and game playing went on for loving, open human connection. I continued to seek community as I entered school. But without the community skills learned in a healthy family of origin, I entered school as a victim having no relationship skills. My character had already been set: I charged onto the school scene without the necessary sense of boundaries and other community skills. I teased and insulted the other kids, pulled girls hair, disobeyed my teachers and became an all-around garden-variety ass (in first grade I was sent back to kindergarten for a day as punishment for leaping over desks in the classroom, thereby disrupting the atmosphere of peaceful classroom community).

     In spite of this I had a few friends. I was fiercely loyal to them and everyone outside our set was viewed with childish suspicion. In the upper grades I was introduced to a curious form of human diversity called ―girls‖. I was at once attracted to and repelled by them. I would seek the community of symbiotic relationship with a girlfriend only to sabotage the relationship soon after.

     Since community in school was impossible for me, I sought it again in Cub Scouts, then Boy Scouts and then Demolay, a Masonic, fraternal organization. In these I didn‘t fare much better.

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    Then I dabbled in church for a while. I joined the Presbyterian Church hungering for community. Community may have been there, but I wasn‘t up for community (when I joined that church, they gave me a three-inch thick packet of member‘s materials. I remember glancing over them while sitting on the toilet one day, and then ―filed‖ them, never to be looked at again).

    Then I entered the work place. My early jobs were a jumble of strife and competition. Power bosses strutted and scolded. Fellow employees gossiped and gibed. Community eluded me.

     I sought community in family again. First, a wife and then children. How Sally and I managed to stay together in the ―community‖ of marriage God only knows. I had no relationship skills and became a tyrant over my little family. For twenty-five years we lived together in a sort of peacefully stale coexistence, interrupted occasionally by one of my ―mixed signals‖, rage attacks, hopeless double binds, or guilt-inducing manipulations. I ruled over my illegitimate family hierarchy like a tyrant/king over his whipped people.

     In the early days of my family, I joined a crazy-making church. Now I see that I was a ―set

    up‖ for such a church. It‘s mode of black and white, all or nothing thinking, the authoritative power of its preachers, offered structure to counter the anarchy and chaos in my troubled inner life. Along with all the spiritual drunkenness this church provided (it carried me on a twenty-five year long delusional binge), I found another friend.

    It was love at first sight, what I was seeking after all these yearscommunity and real

    relationship. At least it felt that way. Alcohol made me feel good, more connected and even more grandiose than usual. Later on alcohol started coming around to bite me in the ass, but I found it impossible to end the relationship. I had ―bonded‖—become emotionally attachedI still loved it

    no matter how many times it beat me up. I could always count on it to give me that initial grand euphoric payoff. To hell with the hangover consequences. My substitute for community, my ―friend‖ Alcohol would reward me with an hour of euphoria after a quick minute of drinking. Later in my relationship with alcohol I would have to drink for an hour to get a minute of euphoria: after a twenty-five year love affair with alcohol our ―relationship‖ had begun to crumble. And then all hell

    broke loose.

    I had received a piece of the life of God at baptism as a baby. In the sacrament of baptism, God parachuted behind enemy lines and I‘ve been walking around for 58 years with him in my head, though it seems he had rarely showed his face in my first 45 years of life. In 1987 he began to show his face.

     I didn‘t know it then but God‘s hand was on my life. His ―irrevocable‖ call (Romans 11:29) began its relentless process as I was summarily thrown into a ―hell" of panic attacks and clinical

    depression. It was, ―Go to hell, do not pass go; do not collect $200 in the game of life.‖ The agony of it all is indescribable to any but to those who have experienced it. I was in a prison of depression and anxiety for eight months.

    But God promises to all: ―I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of

    darkness‖ (Isaiah 45:2-3). Prisoners do not ―choose‖ their way out of prison. They must be

    rescued. The nature and character of God demand that all shall be finally rescued, according to the ―due time‖ God has for each (thankfully, God‘s word—Jesus, the Lightnever returns to him

    without accomplishing the saving purpose for which it was intentionally sent [Isaiah 55:11]. No matter how many layers of denial, ―sin‖ and human edifice we build on top of that Light, the Light is still there, inextinguishable).

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Early AA Experience

     My personal ―rescue‖ began one evening, and according to the divine script I walked into a

    large room full of laughing recovering people, babblers, gods, former gods and those being made in the image of God, though I don‘t believe many of them believed they were being made into such a character image. There were signs on the walls, all terse and trite sayings, like, ―Easy does it,‖ ―This, too, will pass,‖ ―One day at a time,‖ ―Live and let live‖, etc. I asked myself, ―What have I gotten myself into?‖ The answer to that question didn‘t come for several years. What I had gotten

    myself into that evening was my first AA meeting and my first real experience of community. Apparently God had brought me to the point where I was ready to receive community.

    I had arrived on an empty stomachmy ―depression diet‖—as I call it. There had been no

    desire to eat and I had already lost 15 pounds. I walked in physically and spiritually empty but by the end of the meeting, and due to ―fellowship‖ and ―confession‖—the ruthlessly honest testimony

    of thirty or forty ex-drunks like me, my appetite had returned and a glimmer of hope had sparked. There was no question that the ―program‖ worked—somehow I had finally hit spiritual bedrock.

    However, I did question the ostensibly shallow slogans on the wall and wondered about the use of a watered-down description of God called the ―Higher Power.‖

    In AA I saw, and more importantly, felt community working and yet rarely did I hear the

    name ―Jesus‖ mentioned. Mostly I heard of God referred to by this strange and insipid term,

    ―Higher Power‖. That was a bad enough copout. But when I found out that you could fashion and form your own ―higher power‖, my purist Christian sensibilities were shaken and the indignation of it all almost did me in. But the program was beginning to work for me so I put these things to the back of my mind.

    Some few in AA had no Christian experience at all, but most had been, earlier in their lives, unwillingly exposed to a Christian culture that naturally had these people soundly rejecting a form of gospel that most of the church traditionally teaches: If you are a Christian, you are ―in‖—everybody else is ―out.‖ If you are ―out‖, God was obviously having nothing to do with your life and if you didn‘t change—―repent‖—you were surely on your way to ―hell‖ to burn forever in

    flames of fire. By logical deduction, such a Christian god would never be satisfied, even with the extent of your suffering, as reflected in the ―forever‖ aspect of your hellish punishment. Is it any wonder that these people had left the ―church‖ and soundly rejected such a ―gospel‖?

    I met a few Christians who were working the AA ―program,‖ marginal members of various Christian denominations. These had gotten their hands and heads into the ―unconditional nature‖ of God‘s love, and had somewhat of a grasp of the concept of his final, sure and complete success with regard to all of his creation. These either explicitly understood or implicitly ―felt‖ the words of Jesus: ―It is finished.‖ Because of the finished work of the cross, everyone was free to ―work his program.‖

    The atmosphere of a healthy AA meeting is one of unconditional grace and fully free of judging—that would be ―taking another person‘s inventory‖, as members would say.

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Why AA Works

    ―Let‘s live in the solution, not the problem‖ (AA Saying)

     ―God…is the savior of all men, especially of those who believe‖ (1 Timothy 4:10).

    The gospel speaks of God as he is: it is concerned with him himself and with him only‖

    (Karl Barth).

     ―All men‖ are saved (this thought maddens some Christians). It‘s just a matter of ―time.‖

    Now, only a few are aware of that salvation. The true gospel (good news) is concerned with God ―himself and with him only.‖ It does not depend on anything we think or do. ―Christ died for all‖, including the ―ungodly‖ (Romans 5:6), but he also made provision for the ―sanctification‖ and the ―righteousness‖ of the ungodly (1 Cor. 1:30). This God has done, consistent with all of his operations, according to ―gift.‖ God gifts us or ―grants‖ us repentance (see Acts 11:18 and 2 Tim.

    2:25). ―Grants‖ is a rather weak rendering for the original Greek word, which can mean, ―smite‖, or ―strike‖—as we see in St. Paul‘s conversion, said to be a ―pattern‖ by which others would be chosen in the future (1 Tim. 1:16). It is only upon the ―granting‖ of repentance that we can begin to make right choices. Therefore, our ―choice-making‖ is always subordinate to the sovereignty of God.

     But in our ―choice-based‖ Christian culture we have managed to exalt man‘s so-called ―free

    will‖ above God himself. The emphasis on right choices becomes frenzied in parts of the church, due to the heretical doctrine of ―hell‖, or the endless torture of the enemies of God. It has many Christians guessing and obsessing over the issue of their personal salvation. This false doctrine, more than any other, establishes an ―under the law‖ atmosphere in parts of the church, inciting lust within gullible Christians (cp. Romans 7:5, Gal. 5:18), making true repentance practically impossible. This church-promoted idea of ―conditional grace‖—deification of our personal choice-

    making ability—is a form of idolatry because it puts the focus on us, and not on God‘s irresistible workings.

    Existing in healthy contrast to this blundering ―free will‖ way of thinking is the ―faith-

    based‖ model of transcendence and operates fully within the sovereignty of God. Christians, who have received a ―measure of faith‖ that enables them to see the full reach of God‘s salvation, now may rest in this knowledge. They are no longer ―under the law‖ and understand St. Paul‘s words, ―All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.‖ It is no longer an issue of what is lawful and what is unlawful—it is an issue of what works and what doesn‘t. The law is no longer

    able to incite lust within grace-filled Christians to the same degree as those ―under the law‖ and

    therefore their struggles with the flesh are not so intense.

    But ―under the law‖ Christians, fearful of failure, become morbidly introspective, constantly

    focusing on their own whiteness. These will beat themselves up over personal moral failure, spend hours with God begging for power to ―overcome.‖ When the full gospel can reach them, and that God moment‖ (Karl Barth) occurs in their lives, then they will know that they are loved by God

    even when ―sinning‖ (exhibiting destructive, dysfunctional behavior), that ultimate failure is not possible, that God is faithful when we are faithless, and that he will ―grant‖ us repentance in ―due time.‖ Such a measure of grace causes the fearful phantoms of the flesh to diminish, like all idols eventually do, to their rightful size. Though many in the church feel ―under the law,‖ other Christians enjoy a greater measure of grace in their walk with God. Some of these are AA members.

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     It is because of the unconditional nature of the true gospel that AA works. In AA we may fellowship with God and one another free of the theological encumbrance of ―hell‖ (which pictures terrific loss within the creation of God) and free of being ―under the law.‖ The grace-filled

    atmosphere within an AA group encourages personal accountability, confession, and makes it possible for its members to get a handle on ―sin‖—―character defects‖ in AA parlance. Titanic

    struggles with the flesh are not seen in AA because the people in AA seem to have an implicit sense of the gospel that exceeds that of many in other parts of the church.

    Meanwhile, God issues each of us our own form of ―hardness‖ and dysfunction, lets it all play out through the years, and at the appointed time, comes to save each one of us. ―You turn man

    to destruction, and say, return, O children of men‖ (Psalm 90:3). Many apparently will have to

    wait until the next life for this ―return‖, but it is sure to happen, for God ―has made everything beautiful in its time‖ (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

     Probably none of us are psychically strong enough to grieve and work through all our issues in this life. We will all have to ―appear before the judgment seat of Christ‖ for these issues to be

    fully resolved. That everyone is now ―accepted in the Beloved‖ (Eph 1:6) is a true ―gospel‖ (good news) indeed! My particular ―time‖ for God to begin to make everything beautiful began in 1988 when I walked into that first AA meeting.

    ―Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them…‖ (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

    The true gospel involves what St. Paul calls the ―Ministry of Reconciliation.‖ Because of the cross of Jesus, God is no longer ―imputing trespasses.‖ It‘s ―all of God‖—a done deal. If the deal

    hinges primarily on our ―decisions‖ to make it happen, God help us all! As Oswald Chambers

    noted: ―All men are condemned to salvation.‖ Paul goes on to encourage Christians who believe this to ―pass it on‖ that others may simply come to enjoy what has already been given them.

    Because it‘s a done deal, most in AA simply enjoy the freedom of the program, free of all

    the theological baggage. Pretty much free of judging and comparing, AA people continue to work their program, ―one day at a time‖ (―sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof‖).

     Summed up, AA works because of what God put into place a couple of thousand years ago. Because of the cross, ―it is finished‖ and now God ―gives light to every man who comes into the world‖ (John 1:9). The individual stories (experiences) of its members are the ―glue‖ that holds AA together. The grace of God provides the power of confession (done with ―ruthless honesty‖) so that these stories might be told. Next, the light of God interprets these stories within the context of redemption and reconciliation, offering hope to those who need hope. Free of all the power stuff, rules, regulations and penalties, AA exists as a completely voluntary and diverse community. It works in unity and within an atmosphere of forgiveness, confession and divine empowerment. AA success rests squarely on the bedrock of the Atonement.

    ******

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Divine Sovereignty Implicit in the AA Program of Recovery

    ―There but for the grace of God go I‖ (AA saying).

     ―No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…‖ Jesus

     Nothing makes some Christians madder than for one to mess with their concept of ―free will.‖ To these people, ―free will‖ exists as a power greater than God himself. God cannot, or worse yet, won‘t tamper with ones power of choice. God stands helplessly by while people

    ―decide‖ their own destiny. God is powerless to foreordain any future right choices he would have us make. Oswald Chambers, under the heading, ―The Perversity of Will Worship‖ writes, ―Paul warns of the things which ‗have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship‘ (Col. 2:20-23 KJ), the

    idea that you are sufficient to govern yourself. We have got out of conceit with Nietzsche‘s phrase, ‗the power to will‘—if I have enough will I can do it‖ (Shade of His Hand).

     Now personally, I don‘t believe the Bible puts such a priority on our power of ―free choice.‖ John Calvin (and others) rediscovered what the Bible calls ―election‖ (but he jumped the track on ―limited atonement‖). That is, according to the ―God moment‖ in the lives of each of us, we are

    irrevocably ―called‖ to God (see Romans 11:29). This way, none of us can boast in our ability and gumption to choose correctlythe glory goes to God instead. He states that his choice and will is

    that he be ―the savior of all men.‖ The operations of that ―God will‖ are inexorable.

     All AA‘s implicitly recognize the meaning of Psalm 146:7: ―The Lord sets the prisoners

    free.‖ Prisoners do not ―choose‖ their way out of prison: ―I will break in pieces the gates of bronze

    and cut the bars of iron‖ (Isaiah 45:2). AA‘s know in their heart of hearts that God did all the

    initiating and provides all the follow through. In other words, ones ―free choice‖ is always subordinate to the sovereignty of God. Only God has absolute ―free choice.‖ And God‘s choice and

    will is that he be the ―savior of all men‖.

    By the miracle of divine intervention, the prisoner of alcohol was finally set free; that is, given the power of choice to begin to make right choices. There are now many avenues of choice open to the person ―granted‖ repentance by God. The main choices expressed in the AA program are shown in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA. To those alcoholics not yet blest in this way by God, our hearts reach out and we say, ―There but for the grace of God go I.‖ But we all share a faith that believes: for those not yet ―granted repentance‖, it‘s just a matter of time.

The Three Legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous

     ―The chief inheritances of the first twenty years of Alcoholics Anonymous are the Legacies of Recovery, of Unity, and of Service. By the first we recover from alcoholism; by the second we stay together in unity; and by the third our society functions and serves its primary purpose of carrying the AA message to all who need it and want it‖ (AA Comes of Age).

     As I will try to show, the implications of these three legacies are staggering. They are rich in meaning and when understood will bless all parts of the Body of Christ. These are the handiwork of God and have produced very good ―fruit‖ indeed. Though present to some degree in all churches,

    Recovery principles as expressed in the Twelve Steps, Unity principals as expressed in the Twelve

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