Alcoholics Anonymous History
The James Club and The Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials
By Dick B.
For years, A.A. has quietly acknowledged, primarily through one publication, that the early A.A. pioneers in Akron believed firmly that the answer to all their problems was in the Good Book, as they called the Bible. A.A. co-founder Dr. Bob said that all the basic ideas were taken from their study of the Good Book. And he added many many times that the three parts of the Bible the old timers considered “absolutely essential” to their spiritual program of recovery were: (1) The Book of James. (2) Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew Chapters 5, 6, and 7. (3) 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s famous chapter on “love.”
You can find the foregoing remarks in A.A.’s DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, in pamphlets published by Akron AA, and in several talks given through the years by Dr. Bob himself. And it was even his co-founder friend Bill Wilson who spoke of the studies of James, the Sermon, and Corinthians; the reading of these passages by Dr. Bob’s wife Anne to Bill and Bob; and the fact that—as Bill put it—“James was our favorite.” And he added that many favored calling the A.A. fellowship “The James Club.”
All this and much much more is detailed in Dick B.’s 25th published title on the Biblical roots of Alcoholics Anonymous. But this title offers a great deal more. In three major parts, it provides a detailed framework for studying each of the three Bible parts—just as the A.A. pioneers did. The reader can sit with his Bible open beside him, his Big Book available for reference, and Dick’s The James Club title before him. He, the newcomer, and others individually or as a group can study each of the three parts, digest their messages, compare with the A.A. program and its ideas, and then apply these biblical truths in daily life, in practicing the Twelve Steps, and in understanding the miracles that the Creator Yahweh wrought when the pioneers read and believed!
Each of the three parts carries a special message, though all three fit together. Bill W. and Dr. Bob both said that the Sermon on the Mount contained the underlying philosophy of A.A.—perhaps embodying the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”). And Dick’s title explores just how each verse in Matthew illustrates the way in which Jesus said his followers were to “do the will” of his father which is in heaven. You’ll see the many parts of the Sermon that were adopted into the A.A. Steps and Big Book language and ideas.
The title begins with the Book of James, however. Dick details why it has primacy in the study—based in part on its being the AAs’ favorite and in part on the ease with which it can be read and understood. Yet the meat of this wonderful book lies in its explicit formula for cure—especially the cure of the alcoholic. James speaks of patience. He speaks of enduring temptation. He speaks of seeking God’s wisdom without doubting. He speaks of temptation as the enticement which turns into sin and finally death. He strongly suggests that the readers be “doers of the word (the Bible) not hearers only, deceiving themselves. He spells out what “doing” the Word is. It’s about action; it’s about following the “royal law” of loving thy neighbor; its about benevolent giving without respect of persons and with specific aim at the downtrodden; it’s about backing up one’s “faith” with deeds—“works” as James called them; it’s about guarding the tongue and guarding the thoughts and guarding the actions so that devilish thoughts and impulses do not take over; and finally it’s about the importance of prayer, confession of faults and the Lord’s forgiveness, and about prayer for healings. In a nutshell, this book summarizes the whole pioneer approach in Akron; and, of course, it has nothing to do with “steps” or a “basic text” or the “Oxford Group.” It’s about God’s healing ministry, as A.A. old-timer Clarence Snyder put it.
Then there’s the Thirteenth Chapter of First Corinthians. Its relationship to Henry Drummond’s famous treatise and best-selling book The Greatest Thing in the World is made clear to you. It lays out the nine ingredients (as Drummond called them) of love, and illustrates that one can have the power (spoken of in the preceding 12th chapter) and the application (spoken of in the following 14thchapter) and still have nothing—if not accompanied by the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. It concludes that there are faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.”
You’ll wind up, as Dr. Bob did after 10 years of sobriety, believing that the fundamentals (as he called them) in these three segments will heal you, enlighten you, change you, and make your life the kind of life—the abundant life—that Jesus came to teach about and make available.
To sum up, there are five valuable appendices. The first gives you explicit details on the early A.A. program in Akron. The second explains its roots in United Christian Endeavor and just what the almost-forgotten Christian Endeavor movement taught Dr. Bob and enabled him to bring to the table. The essence was, in Christian Endeavor, as it was seen by Dr. Bob himself. Love and Service. The third appendix explains the vital difference between the Akron program, its founder, and its roots, and the program fashioned four years later by Bill in his Big Book. The fourth dives into the Book of James—its history, its canonical standing, and its author; for James was held, by most, to be the brother of Jesus and the author of the book. The final appendix illustrates how important it is to look to the Bible itself for information about God, Yahweh our Creator. Such information readily builds the readers’ believing and expunges the idea that the false gods in today’s recovery talk have anything to offer but the wrath of God Himself.