Alcoholics Anonymous: Pluralistically Praying unto the Higher Power

Christian Worldview Network

Posted: 05/06/2008

It was good that believers sounded the alarm about the National Day of Prayer. Or, to rename the event, the Day of Pluralistic Prayer. These are strange times. We should never allow the world to think Christ may be included in some generic prayer, where His name is not mentioned, nor should we worship alongside those who bow to strange gods. Interfaith prayer and worship are not for followers of Christ.

That being said, many Christians do exactly this every day. For seventy years we have joined with unbelievers in the “spiritual program” of Alcoholics Anonymous. If the idea of opening the National Day of Prayer without acknowledging Christ is upsetting, bear in mind that AA meetings always include Christless corporate prayer. The Serenity Prayer and Lord’s Prayer are invoked at every meeting. These are prayed out loud, together, and in unity.

Who are Christians praying with? Could be just about anyone, really. AA has Mormons, universalists, other Bible-believing Christians, followers of the new age Jesus, and numerous folks with their own custom-designed gods. You name it, you can probably find someone in AA who believes in it. As the AA Big Book (the AA “bible”) states, “We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we, believe to all men.”[1]

Christians in AA may not see it this way, but they are in agreement with a belief system that lifts up strange gods. (Amos 3:3) In Alcoholics Anonymous all gods are called the “higher power,” thus relegating Christ our King to commonality, as if He were simply one nameless deity among many.

“I am the Lord, that is My name. I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to idols.” (Isaiah 42:8)

In 1941, Jack Alexander of the Saturday Evening Post wrote the article that provided AA its first national publicity. Describing AA’s “higher power,” Alexander noted the alcoholic “may choose to think of his Inner Self, the miracle of growth, a tree, man’s wonderment at the physical universe, the structure of the atom, or mere mathematical infinity. Whatever form is visualized, the neophyte is taught that he must rely on it and, in his own way, to pray to the Power for strength.”[2]

Nearly seventy years later this salad bar approach—make your own god—has seemingly become a cultural norm. “Spiritual” is in. “Religion” is out. Many Americans now refer to their god as “higher power.” Bill O’Reilly uses the term frequently on his radio show. This is simply to say that AA’s 12 Step program has made its mark (?) on the culture.

Bondage to alcohol is miserable. Entire families can be ruined. Yet there has been a solution all along, not that you ever hear this in AA:

“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6: 9-11)

Many have been delivered through the power and love of Jesus Christ. Still, like the world, too many Christians believe only AA can help an alcoholic. Everything has been turned upside down: Alcoholics Anonymous can supposedly help everyone, but experiencing Jesus in church without the 12 Steps can supposedly help no one. What, really, is a pastor saying when he tells an alcoholic he needs to join a 12 Step program?

When all is said and done, AA attendance serves to subtly condition Christians to worship with non-believers; perhaps this has been the point all along. Martin and Deidre Bobgan write, “Twelve Step programs are in essence New Age religions and archetypical precurors of a one world religion.”[3]

It is written: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? …Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 6: 14-17)

But we are not separating. Unlike the National Day of Prayer, Christians participate in AA’s Christless corporate prayers every day all across the country. For decades AA has been referred to as a “spiritual program,” a harmless adjunct to one’s own religious belief system. Because of this misrepresentation, most Christians in AA are sincerely unaware they have joined a pantheistic religion.

On November 15, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that AA is indeed religious in nature. An AA meeting is essentially a devotional service. The “higher power” receives worship; confession is heard; testimony is given; the group invokes the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer. The 12th Step instructs AA members to go forth and Spread the Word.

Why do so many believe AA and the 12 Steps are Christian in origin? This false assumption can be attributed in large part to Dick B., author of ‘The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous,’ and numerous books and articles on AA’s alleged Christian beginnings. Unfortunately, the author heavily emphasizes so called Biblical influences while downplaying or ignoring the many anti-Christian factors that were part and parcel of AA’s origin.

The Bible had a role in the creation of AA and the 12 Steps. But so did the New Thought heresy of Emmet Fox. So did Carl Jung, William James, and Emmanuel Swedenborg, all men who rejected Christ the Savior.

So did the spiritualism of AA’s cofounders, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. The Lord tells us, “There shall not be found among you…one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 18:10)

Detestable to the Lord—these are strong words from a holy God. Author Matthew J. Raphael notes that “it might be said for the cofounders, at least, AA was entangled in spiritualism from the very beginning.”[4] AA was founded on June 10, 1935. According to Bill Wilson’s official AA biography, the AA cofounders were engaging in seances and other occurrences that very summer.[5]

In his biography, Wilson documents one of his many occultic adventures: “The ouija board began moving in earnest. What followed was the fairly usual experience—it was a strange melange of Aristotle, St. Francis, diverse archangels with odd names, deceased friends—some in purgatory and others doing nicely, thank you! There were malign and mischievious ones of all descriptions…”[6]

The Bible warns, “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:31)

But Wilson did seek out these detestable things. Therefore, according to the Word of God, Wilson suffered defilement. From 1935 until, at least, the early 1950s, he was in contact with spirits. The Steps were written in 1938. Wilson communicated with demons posing as the dead,[7] served as a medium through whom a demonic message was delivered,[8] and acknowledged that a spirit helped him write AA’s beloved book, ‘Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.’[9]

The Lord states, “As for the person who turns to mediums and spiritists, I will set my face against that person…” (Leviticus 20:6) According to the Word of God, it is simply not possible the 12 Steps are Christian in origin. The Lord promises to “set my face against that person” who is “defiled” by these practices and who is therefore “detestable” to our holy God.

T.A. McMahon sums it up very well: “AA’s official biography indicates Bill Wilson received the details of the 12 Steps through spirit dictation. Does anyone see a simple, idolatrous problem here? But what about evangelicals just using the methodology the familiar spirit gave to Bill Wilson? Simple again: God condemns the source, and the approach is contrary to the way He wants to transform our lives. Furthermore, why turn to such a spiritually toxic system? Where are the evangelical pastors’ heads in this?”[10]

Pluralism is here. Worshiping with non-believers is here. It has gone far beyond the National Day of Prayer. It is a daily occurrence at 12 Step meetings throughout the entire country.


1. Alcoholics Anonymous, pg.46-47

2. Jack Alexander, Saturday Evening Post, 1941

3. Martin and Deidre Bobgan, ‘12 Steps To Destruction,’ pg. 116

4. Matthew J. Raphael, ‘Bill W. and Mr. Wilson,’ pg. 159

5. PASS IT ON, pg. 275

6. Ibid. pg.278

7. Ibid. pg.276-79

8. Ibid. pg.278-79

9. Robert Fitzgerald, ‘The Soul of Sponsorship,’ pg. 59

10. T.A. McMahon, The Berean Call Newsletter

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By John Lanagan

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