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Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous
By Dick B.
our Fellowship, Big Book, and Twelve Steps as Dr. Bob
Understood Them When Bill and Dr. Bob Developed Them in
I have said and written many times–just as did Bill W.–that
nobody invented Alcoholics Anonymous, nor did its principles
and practices come from just one source. There are those
who believe almost all our principles and practices came
from the Oxford Group. But that is not so. Nor did either
Dr. Bob or Bill say so. Nor did the two founders argue
or dispute over the diverse sources–Bible, Quiet Time,
Shoemaker’s teachings, Anne S’s Journal, the Oxford Group
life-changing program, and the Christian literature of
all sorts that early AAs read.. Each co-founder, however,
did ultimately stress certain of the several sources.
Thus, Bill W. said of ten of the Twelve Steps: "The
spiritual substance of our remaining ten Steps came straight
from Dr. Bob’s and my own earlier association with the
Oxford Groups, as they were then led in America by that
Episcopal rector, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker" (See The
Language of the Heart, p. 298; Dick B., New Light
on Alcoholism, 2d ed., p. 6). The facts bear out Bill
Note, however, that Bill was speaking only of
ten of the Twelve Steps. He was not discussing the
A.A. Fellowship, nor his own Big Book, nor the A.A. slogans,
nor the source of the Oxford Group principles,
which came straight from the Bible (See Rev. Sherwood
Sunderland Day, The Principles of the Group,
p. 1: "The principles of ‘The Oxford Group’ are the
principles of the Bible").
And here is what Dr. Bob said about the source of the
A.A. Program. He was not discussing the A.A. Fellowship,
nor Bill’s Big Book, nor the source of the Oxford Group
principles. He was discussing where the basic ideas for
the Twelve Steps came from. Dr. Bob said:
we started in on Bill D., we had no Twelve Steps.
. . But we were convinced that the answer to our problems
was in the Good Book (See The Co-Founders of Alcoholics
Anonymous, pp. 9-10; Dick B., The Good Book
and The Big Book, p. 19).
didn’t write the Twelve Steps. I had nothing to do
with the writing of them. . . . We already had the
basic ideas, though not in terse and tangible form.
We got them. . . . as a result of our study of the
Good Book (See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers,
p. 96; Dick B., The Good Book and The Big
Book, p. 4).
Before we undertake this further study of the Oxford Group
principles that found their way into A.A. (And they are
numerous!), we need to realize–from our Founders’ statements:
(1) Bill said the spiritual substance of ten of
the Twelve Steps came from the Oxford Group. (2)
The Oxford Group said (and their writers bear this out)
that its principles came from the Bible. (3) Dr. Bob said
the basic ideas in the Twelve Steps were the result
of the pioneers’ study of the Bible. (4) Early
Akron A.A. was a Christian Fellowship; likened in part
to "an old fashioned prayer meeting;" and brought
alcoholics to Jesus Christ through surrenders, Bible
study, prayer, practicing the principles of the Bible,
and seeking God’s guidance (See Dick B., Why Early
Group Parallels Bill Adopted in A.A.’s Writings and Steps
In this study, we will be talking about the remarkable
instances where the language Bill W. used in his Big Book,
in the Twelve Steps, in his talks, and in the slogans
very closely resembles language used by a host of Oxford
Group writers in a host of Oxford Group writings (See,
for example, Dick B., The Oxford Group and Alcoholics
Anonymous, 2d ed., pp. 341-64–giving 187 specific
illustrations; New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker,
and A.A., 2d ed., pp 153-70–giving 149 specific illustrations).
We can’t begin to repeat them all or to claim the foregoing
titles contain them all. But this first study will give
you some to think about:
[sin] makes a gap between myself and the Ideal which
I am powerless to bridge. . . Only God, therefore
can deal with sin. He must contrive to do for us what
we have lost the power to do for ourselves" (Shoemaker,
If I Be Lifted Up, pp. 131, 133).
God manage me because I can’t manage myself"
(Russell, For Sinners Only, p. 79; Howard,
Frank Buchman’s Secret, pp. 41-44; Harris,
The Breeze of the Spirit, p. 10).
lies in a faith in God which includes an experiment.
It lies in believing that God is" (Shoemaker,
National Awakening, pp. 40-41).
to believe" (Brown, The Venture of Belief,
we come to believe in God at all, we come to believe
in Him as having something definite to say about our
lives. To believe in the fact of the will of God is
only to believe in God in the concrete" (Shoemaker,
Religion That Works, p. 55).
vast Power outside themselves" (Shoemaker, A
Young Man’s View of the Ministry, p. 42).
Force outside himself, greater than himself"
(Shoemaker, If I Be Lifted Up, p. 176; Kitchen,
I Was a Pagan, pp. 63, 78).
need to find God" (Shoemaker, Realizing Religion,
must surrender our wills to a greater Will, and that
will set us free" (Foot, Life Began
Yesterday, p. 35).
crisis of self-surrender has always been and must
always be regarded as the vital turning point of the
religious life" (Shoemaker, Realizing Religion,
p. 9; Begbie, Life Changers, p. 126).
made a decision to surrender to God" (Foot, Life
Began Yesterday, p. 30).
go! Abandon yourself to Him. Say to Him, ‘Not my will
but Thine be done" (Shoemaker, Religion That
Works, p. 19).
decision to cast my will and my life on God"
(Shoemaker, Twice-Born Ministers, p. 134).
their minds to as much of God as he understood, removing
first the hindrance of self-will" (Shoemaker,
Children of the Second Birth, p. 47).
is what the Oxford Group is working for, changed lives,
God-centered in place of self-centered" (Foot,
Life Began Yesterday, p. 47).
most men, the world is centered in self, which is misery"
(Shoemaker, Realizing Religion, p. 11).
surrender Thee my entire life, O God. I have made
a mess of it, trying to run it myself. You take it–the
whole thing–and run it for me, according to Your will
and plan" (Kitchen, I Was a Pagan, p.
first action is mental action, it is a decision of
the will to make a decision–one decides that one has
not controlled one’s life particularly well hitherto,
and therefore it had better be put under new management"
(Foot, Life Began Yesterday, p. 10).
As Bugs Bunny used to tell us: That’s all folks. But there’s
more to come–more Steps, more quotes, more parallels.
But this should be enough to whet your appetite. Perhaps
now you see why I am so anxious to get into public access
and view the 23,900 item historical collection assembled
in my 11 years of research. Treat yourself to the actual
reading of For Sinners Only, Life Began Yesterday,
I Was a Pagan, Children of the Second Birth,
and Realizing Religion. See our new title, Making
Known the Biblical Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous (a
complete summary of all 23, 900 items–books, articles,
tapes, videos, papers, etc.). Some can now be seen at
The Wilson House. Some at Dr. Bob’s church (St. Paul’s)
in Akron. Most still here on Maui. More to be placed when
benefactors are located. See http://www.dickb.com/index.shtml
for more details.
© 2003 Dick B.. All Rights Reserved.
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Dick B. is a retired attorney, living in Hawaii and student
of the Bible. He has more than 15 published titles
to his name. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In accordance to our Traditions, names of known AA members
have been edited for anonymity.