"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)

The Idolatry of Alcoholics Anonymous and Their “Higher Power”

by Stuart DiNenno

Quotes from the American Addiction Centers Website (emphasis added):


“The early members of Alcoholics Anonymous created a program that was highly influenced by the Oxford Group. One of the most important changes they made was to put the focus on a higher power rather than the Christian concept of God. This would mean that the program would be acceptable to more people.”

“The main benefit of using the words higher power is that it cannot be easily defined. This means that members of 12 step groups can interpret the concept as they wish. It makes it possible for a Christian to follow the steps alongside a Buddhist or even an atheist. Most people interpret higher power as meaning a god, but it does not have to be interpreted this way. It is left up to the individual to decide how they wish to define it. There are no rules except that this power has to be greater than the individual.”

What is described in the quotes above is flat out idolatry — i.e., the idea that it is acceptable, and even beneficial, for men to create a false god in their own minds according to “how they wish to define it,” in order to help them achieve the goal of overcoming their habit of excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks. Anytime men are concocting their own concepts of a god apart from the truths of God contained in Holy Scripture for any reason, they are fashioning an idol against the express will of God, and this sin is not mitigated by so-called good intentions. To do so, is not, in essence, any different than a man chiseling an image out of stone and then bowing down in worship to it. Furthermore, to say that “there are no rules except that this power has to be greater than the individual” is to speak nonsense. If the individual is defining the “higher power” according to his own imagination, then the individual is the creator of the “higher power” and therefore superior to it. It is absurd to posit that a man should submit himself to a god that has been formed by himself, and it is a grievous violation of both God’s First and Second Commandments for him to attempt to do so.

The fact that AA helps some people quit drinking is not justification for the idolatry of a self-defined “higher power” that they advocate, and the excuse commonly used by some Christians for participating in AA, which is that some people progress beyond believing in a mere “higher power” to a belief in the God of the Bible, never can be accepted as a justification for AA’s promotion of idolatry, any more than building a temple for the worship of Baal would be justifiable under the excuse that it is a “stepping stone” to the worship of Jehovah.

Regarding, “alcoholism,” it is not, in fact, a disease in the true sense of the word; it is the giving of oneself over to a particular desire. Some people have an inordinate lust for the pleasant feelings created by alcohol consumption, just as others have an inordinate lust for money or for sexual gratification. We could just as well call greed the disease of “moneyism” or fornication the disease of “sexualism.” Whatever label we give them, they are not mere “problems,” or “weaknesses,” they are sins, and sins require repentance. Christians need to be careful to not, out of a misguided sense of compassion, downplay what are evil actions by excusing them as mere “infirmities” caused by “diseases” that are outside of the control of those “afflicted” by them. Unregenerate sinners indeed may be unable to control their lusts but that never can be an excuse for acting upon them. It has been said that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and we are paving that same road for abusers of alcohol if we soft-peddle the realities of their sin, regardless of whether we are motivated by the “good intention” of showing them love.

What “alcoholics” need is the same thing “moneyics” and “sexualics” need, which is to be freed from the bondage of sin through the new spiritual birth. This requires confronting them with the fact that they are slaves to sin and that they are under the wrath of God for their many evils, warning them that they will face eternal punishment unless they repent of going their own way and of their belief in a false god of their own making, and insisting that they must instead turn to the only true God in the person of Jesus Christ and submit to His will, if they are to be saved from that punishment.

Telling habitual drunkards that they have a disease which can be overcome through a 12 step program that omits Christian concepts of sin, judgment, punishment, righteousness, reconciliation and forgiveness, and says nothing about Jesus Christ but rather leads them to the idol of a “higher power” of their own making, is a damnable lie. While it may result in some people kicking their drinking habit, it leaves them in the bondage of sin (which will be manifested in some other way), and under the wrath of God and on the path to hell, taking with them the added condemnation for the idolatry of manufacturing a false god.

There is no higher power but the Almighty Triune God — the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — and it is the duty of every Christian to both make Him known and to simultaneously cast down the mere idols of men when they have the opportunity to do so. Christians who are participating in AA programs and leading others who are ignorant of the truth into believing that it is acceptable for them to be guided by a “higher power” of their own making, or remaining silent while witnessing others do the same, undoubtedly are not doing works pleasing to God.

The end never justifies the means. Christians cannot do evil that good may result (Romans 3:8). Alcoholics Anonymous is just another example of humanistic programs that use sinful means to sometimes accomplish what appear to be beneficial results but which not only provide no remedy for the underlying cause of man’s evil, and so leave him in a state of servitude to “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2), but also leads him into further darkness by causing him to believe the lie that there is a “higher power” to provide help for him while he remains in a state of unbelief, unwashed from his sins and in rebellion to the true God.

4 thoughts on “”

  1. I would agree with you if I thought that AA espoused an idolatrous substitute for the true God with their concept of a ‘higher power’, but I don’t really think that’s the case or their claim. Most of those I’ve talked to view AA as kind of a fraternity of those who hold one another accountable in a day-by-day commitment to stay sober. I agree with you that addiction is a sin, and not a disease, and some recovering addicts will remain in the bondage of sin that merely takes different forms. However, if they become free of the sin of drunkenness I think their final damnation will be lessened from it would otherwise be. I don’t regard it as an alternative religion, but I think it yields some positive results for society, as sober addicts do less damage to themselves and others than would otherwise be the case.

    • If you deliberately put the focus on a “higher power” rather than the Christian concept of God and you leave it up to the individual to form this “higher power” according to the whims of his own mind, then how can it not be idolatry?

      • I don’t mean to be contrary or split hairs, but a higher power is not a supreme power. An employer or parent is a higher power with a legitimate authority (under God) to exercise command over employees or children without our saying they’re idolatrous relationships. A recovering addict (I think) is simply recognizing the bondage of his individual will as regards his addiction, and surrendering, as regards that addiction, to the counsel of a group of people who have been successful in breaking that particular bondage.

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