What About Alcoholics Anonymous?
“What is your opinion of Christians who attend AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings or treatment centers to stop drinking?”
First, let me note that the Christian should not be opposed to any legitimate treatment that provides a medical solution for a physiological problem. If, for example, one’s body has become chemically addicted to a substance, there may be a valid medical means for helping to remedy that problem. Should such be the case, no moral objection could be raised against the procedure.
On the other hand, we are far too prone to think that there is a “physical” cure for every human aberration. Many of our problems result from a failure to make wise choices, and to exercise the level of discipline we must force ourselves to apply.
It is a sad thing that some in the church feel that they must resort to a hybrid, religio/secular organism, like Alcoholics Anonymous, for the moral support they need – though I understand the desperation that sometimes accompanies such circumstances. But should not that spiritual sustenance be sought from, and provided, by comrades in the Lord? Does the divine affirmation, “We are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10), have such little relevance for us? The inclination to seek solutions to spiritual problems from outside sources, reveals, we regretfully suspect, a weakness in the individual, and perhaps a flaw in the church as well.
There are philosophical premises advocated by AA, and similar organizations, that plainly are at variance with the Scriptures. For example, the notion that once one has become an “alcoholic,” he will always be an alcoholic, is ludicrous. One may be “dry” for years, but, according to AA ideology, he must continually chastise himself with the mantra: “I am a recovering alcoholic.”
Contrast that with 1 Corinthians 6:10-11, where Paul observed that some of the Corinthian saints, at a point in their past, had been drunkards. The apostle does not endorse the notion that a former drunkard must continue to cling to that appellation for some sort of supposed psychological advantage.
The tendency to persuade the drunkard that he is not responsible for his problem – that the “abnormality” is genetically generated, etc. – and that he need feel no guilt or shame for his weakness, is patently antagonistic to biblical teaching. It is an obstacle to repentance and forgiveness. According to the doctrine of Christ, one must accept responsibility for his sin, be willing to reform, and seek pardon in the divinely prescribed way (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:22).
Of course there are those who will cite numerous examples of “success stories” to prove the claim that the Christian may remedy his problem by consulting these “para-spiritual” organizations. But certain “successes” may derive from numerous sources that are not divinely sanctioned.
My own judgment is that I would not compromise religious principle by an affiliation with Alcoholics Anonymous, simply for the sake of finding relief from a drinking problem. AA officials describe the organism as a “spiritual entity,” and the Twelve Step Recovery creed is saturated with religious nomenclature. (A recent court decision determined that AA is a “religion” and thus courts may not mandate attendance for drunk drivers without violating a person’s freedom of religion.)
Similarly, I would not consider attending Seventh-day Adventist meetings in an effort to stop smoking. I would not connect with the Mormons in order to promote a better “family” life. I would not affiliate with the Buddhists or Transcendental Meditation disciples in order to develop a weight-loss program. Why should the child of God seek a solution to his problems in these systems, rather than through the teaching of Christ and the structure of God’s family?
While various religious entities may encourage some noble moral principles, for which we would applaud them, their doctrinal error, which is so damaging to the soul, cannot be ignored for a utilitarian goal. The means is not justified by the end.
NOTE: For more information regarding the “religious” status of AA, see:
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.