The Faith and Fellowship of Early Alcoholics Anonymous
Dick B. Copyright 2005
Part One - The Bible, the “Impossible,” and Miracles
The Bible, Believing, and the Creator
Sometimes A.A. Co-founder Bill Wilson used dogmatic words or phrases that, to him, were indisputable. And sometimes that very approach can be helpful in getting to the heart of the Bible’s authority as to the Creator, the personal name of the Almighty, the fact of, and belief in, His existence. Wilson’s blunt assertions can also be helpful in the context of what should be done if you do dispute his references to the Creator and the belief in, and fact of, His existence basic truths so evident from the words in the Bible.
Abraham and Sarah believed the “impossible” which the Creator said would come to pass: Yahweh, the Creator talked to Abram and made a covenant with Abram that his name would be Abraham; for a father of many nations. He also said that Abraham’s wife would be called Sarah (the mother of nations), and that she would bare Abraham a son. To which, Abraham laughed saying to himself that he was 100 years old and Sarah was ninety. Sarah heard and also laughed. But Yahweh said to Abraham: Is anything too hard for Yahweh and stated Sarah shall have a son. And Yahweh visited Sarah and did unto her as he had spoken: For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. See Genesis 17, 18, 21; Romans 4.
The father of the son with a dumb spirit believed the “impossible” which Jesus said would occur: The multitude brought to Jesus a man with a dumb spirit which Jesus’s disciples could not cast out. The father said to Jesus: if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. To which Jesus said unto him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightaway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. And Jesus cast out that spirit. See Mark 9:17-37.
The Virgin Mary believed the “impossible” and conceived and gave birth to Jesus: Recounting the birth of Jesus, the Gospel of Luke tells us the angel Gabriel was sent from God to visit the Virgin Mary and inform her that she would give birth to the Son of God. Having never known a man, Mary asked the angel how this could be. To which the angel answered that the Holy Ghost would come upon her, that the power of the Highest would overshadow her, and that she would conceive and bring forth a son and call his name Jesus. Said the angel: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Mary replied: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to the word. And Mary was delivered of that child. See Luke 1:26-42, 2:5-6.
Now the foregoing, and hundreds of other miracles impossibilities are reported in the Bible. They were brought about by Almighty God, and they are either believed or not. In this article, we will discuss just how many such miracles there were. They either were, or they weren’t.
The Creator whose name is Yahweh: Bill Wilson spoke explicitly of the Creator. Regrettably, Wilson avoided using the actual personal Name of the Almighty, the so-called Tetragrammaton (the four lettered Name, YHWH - in English). Probably because Wilson neither knew that personal name nor had heard of it. But he did speak confidently about a God personal to me and did call that God his Creator, Maker, and the Father of Light Ball clear references to the Almighty God of the Bible. Moreover, in his plea for faith, Wilson flatly declared:
When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t. What was our choice to be? (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p 53)
This declaration parallels almost verbatim a statement frequently made by Wilson’s spiritual mentor, Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., in several of his books, particularly the early book, Confident Faith. And when Shoemaker used the God either is or isn’t phrase, he sometimes cited and certainly was pointing to the declaration in Hebrews 11:6:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
I haven’t documented these statements because I have already written about them explicitly many times, particularly in my titles such as The Good Book and The Big Book. But as to their truth and importance, I am certainly reminded of one of Wilson’s most insistent (even arrogant) assertions about his own Big Book and its utility. Wilson’s assertion (found in an early draft of his proposed Big Book) is:
Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after, have been designed to sell you three pertinent ideas: (a) That you are alcoholic and cannot manage your own life. (b) That probably no human power can relieve your alcoholism. (c) That God can and will. If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away (emphasis added)
The Creator is: In that book (the basic text of A.A.), Wilson specifically referred without qualification, definition, limitation, or apology to the Creator. He did so twelve times in the Big Book’s basic text (See for example Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., pp. 13, 25, 28, 56, 68, 72, 75, 76, 80, 83, 158, 161).
As to the Bible, from which Wilson clearly derived his references to the Creator, we need not merely rely upon the many Bible references to the English word created (e.g. Genesis 1:1).Nor upon the Bible’s references to creation (e.g. Mark 10:6). For the Bible itself unequivocally uses the English word Creator some five times (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 40:28, 43:25; Romans 1:25; 1 Peter 4:19).
It therefore is more than fair to say the William Griffith Wilson, Co-founder of A.A. and author of its Big Book, believed the Creator to be a fact - a fact accepted and to be accepted by all his readers. Otherwise, he implied, they could throw his book away! In fact, Bill’s co-founder Dr. Bob supplemented Bill’s dogmatic suggestion by stating in Bob’s own personal story that he felt sorry for anyone who was an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or [is among those who] have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you [them] from accepting what is in this book [the Big Book]. See Dr. Bob’s personal story on page 181. The co-founder Dr Bob concludes with this assurance: Your Heavenly Father will never let you down! another explicit reference to Yahweh, the Creator.
The Bible makes the unique personage of the Creator crystal clear. Quoting the Almighty Himself, it states that He (the Creator) gave us His personal name. That name a four lettered name often translated in English as YHWH is accepted by most modern scholars as properly being translated into English as Yahweh (See the many translations, used by Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, and listed in my bibliography). For just one example, see The Scriptures (Northriding, Republic of South Africa: Institute For Scripture Research (PTY) LTD, 1998).
There is far too much good material already written much actually studied by A.A. co-founder Dr. Robert H. Smith (Dr. Bob) and his wife Anne Ripley Smith to justify my doing more in this part than just summarizing the volumes of healing detailed in the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the Book of Acts. The details of these healings are clear, well-known, and well discussed in a host of fine books I’ll include in the bibliography accompanying the last part of these articles. But I do want to repeat and list again the picture A.A. Founders Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob Smith, Anne Smith, Henrietta Seiberling, T. Henry Williams, and Reverend Sam Shoemaker of New York had before them as the A.A. program was being shaped first in Akron and later reshaped and reduced to writing in New York.
Moreover, you should begin and quest of your own for Bible miracles and healings with an open Bible in front of you. If you cannot accept what is in that book, don’t throw it away. Someone else may experience a miracle just by hearing it and believing what it records. But you may just walk away and take with you all the Bible commentaries and miraculous healing books. They’re just the product of the human mind.
There is only one Creator: The Bible’s own first verse in Genesis 1:1 says: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. That’s all the power you’ll ever need! What greater power is there? Whether accomplishing His purpose through a big bang, a spoken word, or miraculous divine fiat, Yahweh, the Creator created. One wag spoke of this tremendous act of power, using baseball language: In the big inning, God! The Bible begins with the greatest and most miraculous power imaginable, the greatest miracle of all - a power and a miracle in fact unimaginable by your five senses. Yahweh created the heavens and the earth.
Begin with the Bible, the Creator, and the truth: The starting points for researching miracles and healings, then, can all be found in your own open Bible: (1) God is (Hebrews 11:6). (2) God this Creator has a personal name Yahweh (Exodus 3:15). (3) That personal name Yahweh is His alone. (4) He has other names and titles. He’s the Creator and Maker. To some, He is the Father. By many He is called God, Adonai, ALORD, El Shaddai, Elohim, and Love. But He has given us His own personal name, which is YHWH - Yahweh. Of that name, Yahweh Himself says:
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD [Yahweh] thy God in vain. . . (Exodus 20:7)
Glory ye in his holy name. . . (Psalm 105:3)
A. . . holy and reverend is his name (Psalm 111:9)
And I will sanctify my great name. . . (Ezekiel 36:23)
Just as the United States has many presidents, so the world and even the Bible refer to many gods. But the Bible distinguishes Yahweh the Creator any and all other gods or god. It enables anyone to think of Him in personal terms and as a personal God with a personal name, as differing from the proliferating gods of yesterday and today such as light bulbs, Jupiter, door knobs, higher powers, graven images, and the devil himself.
Yahweh is a personal name; and if He is called by His name, you can’t get mixed up by titles, other names, and other gods. The Bible itself says there are gods many. But there is only one named Yahweh. There is only one Creator. There is only one Creator who is. And this is the Creator who performs the miracles, beginning with that described in Genesis 1:1, or enabled them to be performed by His son, by angels, by servants, and by you.
Part Two: The Old Testament Miracles of Yahweh, the Creator
The Scope of Bible Miracles:
There are plenty of discussions of Old Testament signs, wonders, miracles, and healings. You can find some good ones in my bibliography. But whatever you may think of its theology there is one discussion that really highlights and details all the miracles of the Old Testament. In fact, it makes clear that the very Bible itself is a miracle whose contents were revealed to men by God. Its very contents list one miracle after another. The title is that of Dr. Herbert Lockyer: All The Miracles of the Bible: The Supernatural in Scripture Its Scope and Significance (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961). Lockyer starts us off with these comments:
A miracle has been defined as a work wrought by a divine power for a divine purpose by means beyond the reach of man. . . . Webster’s definition of a miracle is clear and concise event or effect in the physical world deviating from the known laws of nature, or transcending our knowledge of these laws; an extra-ordinary, anomalous, or abnormal event brought about by a super-human agency. . . . the Bible does not set itself to define miracles from the standpoint of nature or science, but from the standpoint of the moral source, the moral power, the moral aim, and the moral effect which they represented. . . . The term miracle then, from the Biblical standpoint is used to describe the wonderful phenomena accompanying Jewish and Christian revelations, especially at critical moments. The Biblical conception of a miracle is that of some extraordinary work of deity transcending the ordinary powers of nature and wrought in connection with the ends of revelation (pp. 13-14).
Viewed as Lockyer presents them, Bible miracles reveal the prerogative of deity to exercise almightiness in any realm. Here are some of the divisions: (1) Power over nature -miracles having to do with the Red Sea, Jordan, stilling storms, water into wine, walking on sea; pillar of fire, fiery furnace; Manna, feeding hundreds or thousands; thunder, floods, withered trees, opened doors. (2) Power over disease provision, prevention, and permission of diseases ranging from boils, leprosy, poisonous serpents, withered hands, blindness, deafness, dumbness, lameness, infirmities. (3) Power over death resurrections of Elijah’s bones, the three Christ raised from the dead, the resurrection of Christ, and apostolic resurrection. (4) Power over demons covering the witch at Endor, demoniacs, lunacy, unclean spirits. There are many more.
The Common Shortcomings of Most Lists: A few more words from Lockyer will be helpful:
A surpassing feature of one’s quest for works of profit is the fact that there is no theological treatise, at least known to the writer, dealing with all the miracles of the Bible. Somehow Old Testament miracles, which are as numerous, if not more so, than those found in the New Testament, are sadly neglected. . . . In several, we have scant references to some of the miracles performed by the prophets and the apostles, but a complete and comprehensive list is lacking (p, 25).
Usually theological treatises dealing with Bible miracles, either for or against, omit any reference to the Bible as a miracle in itself. It is not only a Book relating credited miracles everything associated with the Bible is miraculous. . . Everything about the Bible is supernatural, and in spite of all destructive criticism has done to weaken its authority, it remains an ever-present miracle (p. 26).
Lockyer points to the oft-ignored scope of miracles: (1) Miracle of its inspiration as originally written the Bible is wholly inspired. The divine inspiration of Scripture was the unvarying conviction of the Christian Church until the dominance of liberalism towards the close of the last century. (2) Miracle of its antiquity a sacred which took some 1,500 years to complete has been in existence in its completed form for almost two millenniums. (3) Miracle of its accuracy Archeology, for example, has proved to be an invaluable aid in confirming Bible records. (4) Miracle of its harmony Though written by some 40 writers over 1,500 years, its 66 books agree. (5) Miracle of its preservation. (6) Miracle of its preparation only a small fraction of residuary variation in the text. (7) Miracle of its abiding power a triumphant ministry to a world in need. (8) Miracle of its circulation still the world’s best seller though thousands of years old.
A Birds Eye View of the Old Testament Miracles
We continue with Lockyer’s enormous summary. You will have to do a lot of reading to cover all the miracles he points out in the Old Testament (Lockyer, All The Miracles of the Bible, supra, pp. 28-148). But here is an overview, as to which you will find Lockyer’s chapter and verse documentation.
The Miracles of the Books of Moses: (1) The Miracle of Creation - of the world, of man, and the earth’s development from chaos to light to firmament to dry land to vegetation to life in water and air and land, to man. (2) The Miracle of Enoch’s Translation. (3) The Miracle of the Flood. (4) The Miracle of Babel. (5) The Miracle of Plagued Pharaoh. (6) The Miracle of the Smoking Furnace and Burning Lamp. (7) The Miracle of Sarah’s Conception. (8) The Miracle of Blinded Sodomites and of Sodom and Gomorrah.(9) The Miracle of Lot’s Wife. (10) The Miracle of Closed Wombs. (11) The Miracle of Hagar’s Well. (12) The Miracle of the Burning Bush. (13) The Miracle of the Leprous Hand. (14) The Miracle of the Rod. (15) The Miracle and Miracles of Moses. (16) The Miracles of the Nile, the Frogs, the Lice, the Flies, the Murrain of Beasts, Boils and Blains, the Locusts. (17) The Miracles in Exodus as to the Darkness, Death of the Firstborn, Cloud and Fire, Red Sea. (18 The Miracles in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers as to the Journey, Marah’s Healing Waters, Manna, Quails, Smitten Rock, Victory Over Amalek, at Sinai, at Taberah, of Miriam’s Leprosy, Aaron’s Rod, the Brazen Serpent, of the Well, Balaam’s Ass, and Moses’ Death. Many of these have become so accepted and so much a part of our language that we frequently hear expressions about the Creation, the Flood, Babel, Sarah’s conception, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Burning Bush, the parting of the Sea, the Journey of the children of Israel, and Manna.
The Miracles of the Historical Books: (1) Dividing of the Jordan. (2) Miracle Appearance. (3) Jericho. (4) Gibeon. (5) The Sun Standing Still. (6) Miracles in the Book of Judges. (7) Samson. (8) Samuel’s history. (9) David’s career. (10) Solomon’s Reign. (11) Elijah. (12) Elisha. (13) the healings. Again, what the Bible did not directly contribute, the Negro Spirituals and Hollywood Epochs have made a part of our language and understanding.
The Miracles in Post-Captivity Books: Strong evidences of God’s almightiness are to be found in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
The Miracles in the Poetical Books: The records in Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are loaded with pages and pages of materiel on God’s providence, guidance, and deliverance.
The Miracles in the Prophetical Books: Prophecy is itself a miracle. The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and DanielBwhether exemplifying miracles by the authors or testimonies to the miraculous power of GodBproclaim the words of men who spoke for God and who received messages from God. Some twelve other prophetical books contain predictions of events not within human foresight, and proof that the establishment of predictions has been brought about which surpass human power and are not from man’s sagacity, nor the event from man’s will and design. These are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and the concluding Malachi.
A Focus on Healing Miracles
In Morton T. Kelsey, Psychology, Medicine & Christian Healing. Rev. and exp.ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1966), some very important contentions are made.
Kelsey points to what he calls some of the most touching and best-remembered stories of Old Testament healings accounts which we have summarized by chapter and verse below. But Kelsey contends there are two distinctly different strands pertaining to sickness and sin in the Old Testament. As to the first strand, Keley said:
Health and wealth are the rewards of God, and sickness, poverty, and misfortune were divine punishments. From the beginning the law went into detail about the kind of disease Yahweh would send upon those who did not live by his covenant. . . . There is certainly no question how sickness was looked upon in this major strand of the Old Testament; it was sent by Yahweh to punish people for breaking the ritualistic or moral law (pp. 27-28).
As to the second strand, he said:
The other strand of belief about healing found in the Old Testament is not as wide or obvious as the teaching accepted by Hebrew leaders. It is expressed in certain healing stories, in some of the Psalms, in the hopes of certain passages of Isaiah, and in the gigantic protest of the book of Job. This element is the one Jesus followed, the base from which he acted. As we have already seen, in the Old Testament there was no question, in theory, that Yahweh could heal. In several places remarkable instances were recorded. Some of the most touching and best-remembered stories are those in which children were given to women who were barren (p.33).
What then is the truth? Is Yahweh the punishing God we often hear mentioned by Roman Catholics in A.A. meetings a God who visits sickness and punishment on disobedient people? Or is He the God of love, of whom Dr. Bob and his wife Anne so often spoke in early A.A.?
In Healing: Pagan And Christian (London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1935), author George Gordon Dawson comments, p. 90:
The standpoint of the Old Testament, generally, is that good health results from holy living. It is a divine gift and the reward of loving service. Any cure of disease was regarded as a gift from Yahweh, and resulted from forgiveness. The sick person made his peace with Him by repentance, intercession, and sacrifice. The right spiritual relationship was restored. The soul was at rest, and the inner life being calm the bodily symptoms disappeared.
Alan Richardson wrote at pp. 3-4:
. . . in the Old Testament the historically decisive event, which became for the Hebrew mind, the symbol and type of all God’s comings in history is the Miracle of the Red Sea. The Miracle Stories of the Gospels (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1941).
Again, what is the truth? A God of wrath, punishment, and justice? A God of love, forgiveness, and salvation? To answer could provide you with volumes of commentaries and opinions.
Here, we’d prefer to pass on from the statements and observations of commentators. Let’s look at the Bible.
First, the Specific Examples of Healing
Children given to women who were barren (Genesis 18:10, Judges 13:5, 24; 1 Samuel 1:19-20; 2 Kings 4:16-17).
The healing of Miriam’s leprosy (Numbers 12:1-15; 2 Kings 5:1-14).
The healing of Jeroboam’s paralyzed hand (1 Kings 13:1-6).
Raising from the dead by Elijah and by Elisha (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:1-37).
Salvation of the Israelites from the later plagues in Egypt (Numbers 21:6-9).
Miracles wrought by Moses (Exodus 7 - 17).
For summaries, see New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982), pp. 457-65; Kelsey, Psychology, Medicine, & Christian Healing, supra, pp. 35-36; Lockyer, All The Miracles of The Bible, supra, pp. 25-148.
Second, Some Old Testament Bible Verses to Study
And [Yahweh] said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord [Yahweh] thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord [Yahweh] that healeth thee.
But if from thence thou shall seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever.
Deuteronomy 7:8-9, 11-15:
But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondsmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.
Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command me this day, to do them. Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers. And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto the fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be blessed above all people. . . . And the Lord will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.
The Word of God, as it is set forth in the Old Testament, tells us that Yahweh has given us commandments and statutes and commands us to obey them. It tells us He loves us, forgives us, heals our diseases, redeems our lives from destruction, and crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies. It tells us we can cry out to him in trouble and be saved from our distresses, be healed of our diseases, and be delivered from destructions. He will guide us. He will protect us. He will not forsake us if we obey Him. And he certainly commands. But His commandments are not grievous. And this is the love of God–that we obey His commandments.
Copyright © Dick B.