Steps One through Step Six
We have many times documented the frequent statements by A.A. co-founder Bill Wilson that his friend, Rev. Sam Shoemaker, was the major source of the Big Book ideas and Twelve Steps.1 In 1955, Newsweek named him one of the ten greatest preachers in the United States.2 Shoemaker was known as a great communicator, and was described by his associate, Rev. W. Irving Harris, as a Bible Christian.3
There are many persuasive instances where one can find almost exact parallels between the language Bill Wilson used in the Big Book and the language Shoemaker used in his many Christian books, articles, and pamphlets.
Here, Step by Step, are a few of those parallels. Key words and phrases appear here in bold face. Moreover, in a number of my books, I have carefully stated and reviewed every parallel quote I have found in Shoemaker’s many writings. In each case, the parallels are present, and the examples are numerous. Those books which contain the totality of my work on Big Book-Shoemaker parallels are included at the close of this series of articles.
This study of Steps One trough Six begins with the parallels between Shoemaker’s introduction to the idea of “finding God” and Bill Wilson’s original insistence that one who takes the Twelve Steps must find God. In Realizing Religion, Shoemaker wrote: “You need to find God. You need a vital religious experience. You need Jesus Christ”4
Here Are the Parallels in the First Six Steps
Shoemaker wrote: “It makes a gap between myself and the Ideal which I am powerless to bridge. It distances me from the All-holy God.” 5 He also frequently referred to the prayer, “O Lord, manage me, for I cannot manage myself.”6
Shoemaker wrote: “I told him that I knew if he would make that act in faith, he would find himself not the possessor of, but possessed by, a Force outside himself, greater than himself.”7 Shoemaker also wrote: “They seemed to be propelled by a vast Power outside themselves.”8
Shoemaker wrote the following:
(1) “He went into his room, knelt by his bed, and gave his life in surrender to God.”9
(2) “She surrendered to God her groundless fears, and with them turned over her life for His direction.”10
(3) “[H]e had made the greatest decision of life, to surrender himself unconditionally and for always to the will of God.”11
(4) “That night I decided to launch out into the deep and with the decision to cast my will and my life on God”12
(5) “They prayed together, opening their minds to as much of God as he understood.”13
Shoemaker wrote: “It would be a very good thing if you took a piece of foolscap paper and wrote down the sins you feel guilty of… One of the simplest and best rules for self-examination that I know is to use the Four Standards, which Dr. Robert E. Speer said represented the summary of the Sermon on the Mount — Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness, and Absolute Love. Review your life in their light. Put down everything that doesn’t measure up. Be ruthlessly, realistically honest.”14
Shoemaker wrote: “When people’s lives are wrong, they are usually wrong on one or more of these standards. Many quite respectable people have hidden things in their past and their present that need to come out in confidence with some one. . . . If a person is honest with himself and with God, he will be honest also with us and be ready to take the next step, which is a decision to surrender these sins, with himself wholly to God.”15
Shoemaker wrote: “You see, most of us justify our wrong-doings and excuse them. Even when we admit them, we do not quite want to give them up. . . . Sin hides behind immaturity, we keep up a fence of protection, then when we are found out we whimper like babies. But when we take down the fence of protection, and let another know us well, we are through with shams and self-deception and the attempt to deceive others, even God. It will take some prayer to get to this place, where we want God to take the sin out of us, all of it, and for good.”16
As stated, the foregoing are not the only parallels to each Step. We have listed all the references to them that we have found in our various titles. (For more on this, please see the forthcoming third article in this series.) Meanwhile, the reader may enjoy the extensive word and phrase parallels between Shoemaker language and either Big Book or Step language as we have listed them in these two titles:
(1) Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism (148 parallels), pages 153-70; and
(2) Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous (202 parallels from both Shoemaker’s and other Oxford Group writings — Shoemaker being the principal American Oxford Group leader in the 1930’s), pages 276-77, 341-64. As stated, there are many other parallels, and each of those listed in this series on Steps One through Six contains a citation to the page where you can find the Shoemaker-Oxford Group language quoted in my books.
1 Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A., Pittsburgh ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1999), 4-7, 8-9, 147-48, 152-53, 327-45, 359, 377-78, 393-95, 487, 531-40, 547-48, 551-52.
2 Billy Graham Center; Archives; Papers of Samuel Moor Shoemaker – Collection 269.
3 Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism, xxi, 386; The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living That Works, new rev. ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998), 9.
4 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., Realizing Religion (NY: Association Press, 1923), 9. A.A.’s Big Book discussion begins its approach to the Steps by saying, “But there is One who has all Power — that One is God. May you find Him now!” (Big Book, 4th ed., 59).
5 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., If I Be Lifted Up: Thoughts about the Cross (NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1931), 131, 133.
6 W. Irving Harris, The Breeze of the Spirit: Sam Shoemaker and the Story of Faith at Work (NY: A Crossroad Book/The Seabury Press, 1978), 10. A.A’s Step One reads: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” (Big Book, 4th ed., 59).
7 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., If I Be Lifted Up, 176.
8 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., A Young Man’s View of the Ministry ((NY: Association Press, 1933). A.A.’s Step Two reads: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” (Big Book, 4th ed., 59).
9 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., Children of the Second Birth (NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1927), 175.
10 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., Children of the Second Birth, 82.
11 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., Children of the Second Birth, 61- 62.
12 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., Twice-Born Ministers (NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1929), 134.
13 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., Children of the Second Birth, 25, 47. A.A.’s Step Three reads: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” (Big Book, 4th ed., 59).
14 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., How to Become a Christian, 56-57. A.A.’s Step Four reads: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” (Big Book, 4th ed., 59).
15 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., The Church Can Save the World, 110-12. A.A.’s Step Five reads: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” (Big Book, 4th ed., 59).
16 Samuel Shoemaker, Jr., THE TWELVE STEPS OF A.A.: What They can Mean to the Rest of Us. See Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, 347 — quoting from Shoemaker’s article in his parish journal, The Calvary Evangel. A.A.’s Step Six reads: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”