Dr. Bob’s Bible -The “Good Book” in A.A.

The “Good Book” Is the Bible

As I have reported before-and will show again below-Alcoholics Anonymous cofounder Dr. Bob is often seen referring to the Bible as “the Good Book” in A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature. A well-known Christian couple who condemn A.A. have questioned whether Dr. Bob was a Christian because he called the Bible “the Good Book” rather than “the very Word of God”; which, they claim, “is what a true Christian would do.” [See: Martin and Deidre Bobgan, “Dr. Bob Smith: A Christian ‘Root’ of AA?” in PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter (PAL), Jan-Feb ’03 – V11N1, http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/bobs11_1.html; accessed 5/21/10.]

Here are some simple facts from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and from A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature.

  • “good book”: .n. often cap G & B (1860): BIBLE [Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1993), 502]
  • “(Dr. Bob was always positive about his faith, Clarence said. If someone asked him a question about the program, his usual response was: ‘What does it say in the Good Book?'” [DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980), 144]
  • Dr. Bob specifically referred to the Bible as the “Good Book” five times in his last major speech to AAs in Detroit in 1948:
    • “I had refreshed my memory of the Good Book, and I had had excellent training in that as a youngster.” [The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975), 11-12]
    • “Now I knew that this Bill [D.–A.A. Number Three] was a Sunday-school superintendent, and I thought that he probably forgot more about the Good Book every night than I ever knew.” [The Co-Founders, 12]
    • “I’m somewhat allergic to work, but I felt that I should continue to increase my familiarity with the Good Book and also should read a good deal of standard literature, possibly of a scientific nature.” [The Co-Founders, 13]
    • “When we started in on Bill D., we had no Twelve Steps, either; we had no Traditions. But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James.” [The Co-Founders, 13]
    • “We already had the basic ideas [of the Twelve Steps], though not in terse and tangible form. We got them, as I said, as a result of our study of the Good Book.” [The Co-Founders, 14]
  • In the same speech, recorded in The Co-Founders pamphlet, Dr. Bob specifically mentioned:
    • “the Lord,” (p. 13);
    • “the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James” (p. 13);
    • “. . . I [Dr. Bob] feel that I was simply used as God’s agent” (p. 14);
    • “our Heavenly Father” (pp. 15, 19 twice, 20);
    • “Christ said . . . My strength cometh from My Father in heaven;” (p. 19); and
    • “the grace of our Heavenly Father” and “God’s grace” (p. 19).

Dr. Bob’s familiarity with the English language, the Bible, and the words “our Heavenly Father,” “the Good Book,” “Christ,” “God’s grace,” as well as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13, and the Book of James, can be found exemplified throughout A.A. literature. As I have often documented elsewhere, both Dr. Bob and Bill W. stated that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) contained the underlying spiritual philosophy of A.A. Both acknowledged that the Book of James was a favorite in early A.A. to the point that many AAs wanted to call their society “the James Club.” Actual quotes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the Book of James, and various biblical words and phrases, are sprinkled throughout A.A. literature-e.g., “Thy will be done;” “Heavenly Father;” “Love thy neighbor as thyself;” “Faith without works is dead;” “Confess your faults one to another;” “Father of lights;” and “God.”

Dr. Bob was raised and trained in the North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury, where he and his whole family were regularly in attendance. He was trained in the Sunday school, in the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor; in the Young Men’s Christian Association; in daily chapel at St. Johnsbury Academy; and by his deeply religious parents-Judge Walter P. Smith and Mrs. Susan H. Smith. In later years, Bob attended an Episcopal Church in Akron. Dr. Bob and his wife Anne Smith were charter members of the Westside Presbyterian Church in Akron; and Dr. Bob became a communicant at St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Akron not long before his death.

Yes! Only someone bound to prove that AAs never were and could not have been Christians would seize on the idea that because Dr. Bob often referred to the Bible as the “Good Book” he was therefore not a Christian.

As a youngster, and long before I became either a drunk or an A.A. member, I did not have to use the dictionary to determine whether or not someone was a Christian based on whether they called the Holy Bible the “Good Book.” Good it was, and plainly those who called it “Good” were very clear on that point. In fact, I had never heard it called the “bad book.” And I doubt that those who condemn A.A. have ever gone that far themselves.

For more, please see:
Dick B., The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible (www.dickb.com/goodbook.shtml;
Dick B., The James Club and The Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials (www.dickb.com/JamesClub.shtml