Tuesday, October 09, 2007
AA & Antinomianism:
For a long time I've been wondering if AA's co-founder Bill W. ever addressed the issue of antinomianism (read: spiritual and moral anarchy supposedly caused by the absence of Law) directly. Sure enough, he does, in a rather unpopular portion of the "Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions" known as AA's Twelve Traditions, "Tradition 9" in particular, which states: "AA, as such, ought never be organized: but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve." Here follow some fantastic quotes from the brief four pages written by Bill on "Tradition 9":
"When Tradition Nine was first written, it said that 'Alcoholics Anonymous needs the least possible organization.' In years since then, we have changed our minds about that. Today, we are able to say with assurance that AA should never be organized at all...
"Did anyone ever hear of a nation, a church (!), a political party, even a benevolent association that had no membership rules? Did anyone ever hear of a society which couldn't somehow discipline its members and enforce obedience to necessary rules and regulations? Doesn't nearly every society on earth give authority to some of its members to impose obedience upon the rest and to punish or expel offenders? Power to direct or govern is the essence of organization everywhere.
"Yet AA is an exception. It does not conform to this patter. Neither its General Service Conference, its Foundation Board, nor the humblest group committee can issue a single directive to an AA member and make it stick, let alone mete out any punishment. We've tried it lots of times, but utter failure is always the result.
"At this juncture, we can hear a churchman exclaim, 'they are making disobedience a virtue!' (i.e., read: should we sin more that grace may abound?) He is joined by the psychiatrist who says, 'Defiant brats! They won't grow up and conform to social usage!' The man in the street says, 'I don't understand it. They must be nuts!' But all these observers have overlooked something unique in AA. Unless each AA member follows to the best of his ability our suggested Twelve Steps to recovery (read: acknowledges that he/she is powerless and therefore in need of a saving grace), he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to spiritual principles (read: his/her sin).
"...So we of AA do obey spiritual principles, first because we must, and ultimately because we love the kind of life such obedience brings. Great suffering and great love are AA's disciplinariean; we need no others.
"...Though Tradition Nine at first seems to deal with a purely practical matter, in its actual operation it discloses a society without organization, in its actual operation it discloses a society without organization, animated only by the spirit of service -- a true fellowship."
Let it be said that, in the face of true sin , God becomes extremely real and the human will becomes utterly insufficient to solve any deep problem. --JAZ
Posted by John Zahl at 4:56 AM