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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Response to a Comment: Are we talking about the same God?

OK, here is Part 2 of my response that began yesterday.  This is what our fellow reader wrote:

2) I also struggle with God in AA being the same God of the bible and the same God of the Koran and the same God of the Hindu, and the same God/dess of the New Ager, or the same God of the Great Spirit of Native Americans, etc.

It is hard for me to pretend that the God of the bible is the same as the others. I don't know how to react to people in AA when they tell me that "oh, it's all the same!" I practiced many religtions before converting to Christianity in 2007. I can emphatically and authoritatively state that It's NOT the same. Yet, I know that God will keep them sober nevertheless.

I realize AA says "principles before personalities" - does that mean God is also putting principles before His own personality? That He has humbled Himself to the point of stripping off religion in the same way equality with God was not something He grasped at? (He has lowered Himself in order that He might raise us up past alcoholism?) To paraphrase Mel Webber: "God is even anonymous in AA".

Well, the answer here is more nuanced.

People, generally speaking, will never admit that they are out to find a 'fake god.'  Of course, in the Age of Post-Modernism where everyone gets to make up the 'truth' regardless of the fact that the reality of getting punched in the face is something you cannot decide is not the truth and still not end up with loose teeth and a black eye, there are some folks who think that they can make up their own truths.  In the end, where there is no one truth, then there is no truth at all.  You just end up with opinions and, ultimately, nihilism.

You'd be surprised that at least one Orthodox seminary subscribes to this concept.  The Dean is rather fervent about it, though he's smart enough not to utter such nonsense around bishops.  However, there are plenty of clergy who get there seminary formation with this kind of encoding.

What I am saying is that post-modernism is a problem not just in AA, but also in the Church.  You have to be careful with clergy: some are reactionaries, and others are post-modernists.  Neither are really Traditional (despite their protests otherwise), because the Church is neither ossified to conditions of centuries past, nor is it a make-it-up-as-you-go-along adventure for the hyper-intellectual.

So, getting back on track, God is God as He is.  He is best described in the Church in which He dwells.

Now, just as God used Balaam (Nu 22) and the Witch of Endor (1Sa 28), God can use other religions to reach people in need and to execute His purposes.  God is not an egomaniac who must have everything perfect in order to initiate His will.  You will see God working even in non-Orthodox environments precisely because these are all His people.

All of humanity belong to Him.

And, we can say that all of humanity truly hungers for Him.  Sure, someone may be burning incense to the image of a demon, but deep within all men is the Light of Christ, and each person ultimately seeks out union with the Creator.  Some get bad information, and so you end up with thousands of religions.

The person entering AA is NOT free to pick any god he desires.  The Big Book is pretty specific.  The fact that plenty of people in AA don't quite get that is perfectly understandable: the 12 Step community walks a tight-rope over a pit full of alligators.  It must balance the distinctly Christian origins of AA with the concept of an Anonymous God.

All religions seek to find God, and so we can honor and respect those people who are genuine seekers like us.  Perhaps we can even show them some compassion, since finding Him through their own religions is almost an impossibility.

I do believe that God acts through AA and the 12 Steps even when the addict is not Orthodox because God loves the non-Orthodox as much as He loves the Orthodox.  He blesses both in His generosity.  When it comes to morality, God certainly does not condemn those outside the Church:

When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all. (Ro 2:14-16)

The reason for an anonymous God in AA is because so many people have given Him false attributes: anger, resentment, hostility, judgment, aloofness... etc.  The recovering addict must learn about God not through labels but through experience.  

God becomes anonymous not to avoid the truth about Him, but the falsehoods we project on Him.  Through the Steps, we must trust Him not because of the words about Him, but that we simply have no other choice.  He must save us, because there is no other solution to the problem of fear.

Falsehood always seeks to limit the love of God.  Heresy is about the human limits places on the infinite.  God's love cannot be bound, though it certainly can be rejected.  False religions reject some aspect of God's love.

Some Orthodox, in spite of the contrary within our Faith, seek to do the same thing and create a home for heterodox opinions in the Church. We must be careful.  Not everything in a cassock and black hat is Orthodox.


  1. A.A is not monolithic. Despite what some think, its co-founders were both brought up as Christians--they and family being solid members of Congregational churches. Their basic recovery ideas were gleaned from Christian sources such as the rescue missions, YMCA, Salvation Army, Congregationalism, the great Christian evangelists like Moody, and United Christian Endeavor. Their one standard and source for truth was the Bible. However, in 1939, Wilson sanctioned the great compromise in which God was removed from the 12 Steps and nonsense "higher powers" were substituted in Steps Two, Three, and Eleven. This, said Wilson, was the great contribution of the atheists and agnostics. That did not make A.A. atheist or agnostic; it simply caved in to a very limited atheist demand that the door be opened to others. And now it is. But why Christians, who understand the Creator of the Bible and coming to Him through Jesus Christ should join the confusing parade of higher power adherents is another point. A.A. has thousands of Christians. They are free to read the Bible, pursue their beliefs, and avoid being labeled as adherents to an A.A. ideas held by others. Dick B.

    1. Dick, your books are excellent, and I took a load over to Russia to help my friends there understand the Christian foundation of AA and the Steps. I think that the 'compromise' still did not achieve the goal, which is why the anti-theist movement within AA is starting to emerge and create its own movement, as I noted earlier: