The “Apostle” Bill W. and the Apostle Paul

The “Apostle” Bill W. and the Apostle Paul September 13, 2018

Whether you attend a church service upstairs or a step meeting downstairs; whether you are most comfortable with the language of religion or the language of recovery; whether your basic text is the Big Book or the Bible; the 10 Commandments or the 12 Steps; whether you have a God or a Higher Power; and whether you seek sobriety or salvation; if you are diligent in your spiritual journey and thorough in seeking spiritual growth ~ whether through the church or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or a hybrid combination of both ~ the result of your spiritual quest, of which this series is a part, is your transformation into a closer resemblance of the person God wants you to be.

We have two guides on this part of this spiritual journey: the Apostle Paul, author of the letters or “epistles” in the Bible that were written to various churches; and the “Apostle” Bill W., also known as Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA. Both Paul and Bill, as you shall soon see, were rather unlikely choices to be spiritual leaders whose divine mission was guiding people to healing, transformation, and wholeness.

God intervened upon the lives of the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Bill and put them to use for the betterment of humanity. The reason I refer to them both as “apostles” is that one definition of “apostle” is, “the earliest or foremost advocate of a cause.”

The Apostle Paul was an earliest or foremost advocate of the cause of Christianity. He has been called the person most responsible for the spread of Christianity, even more so than Jesus. Paul took Christianity to the world and reached people and places that even Jesus might not have imagined it would reach.

The Apostle Bill was an earliest or foremost advocate of the cause known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Author Aldous Huxley called Bill Wilson the greatest social architect of the twentieth century.” Bill took recovery to the world and reached people and places that even Bill himself would not have imagined possible.

The lives of the Apostle Bill and the Apostle Paul, though two thousand years apart, span the separate disciplines of theology, psychology, and philosophy. But one key principle that they have in common is the belief that the transformation of self and society was not possible without a spiritual awakening, a spiritual re-birth.

Bill Wilson did not start a church, and the Apostle Paul did not start a 12 Step group, but that does not mean that you need to choose between the church and AA. Whether you like the church more than AA, or AA more than the church ~ there are things that AA can learn from the church, just as there are many things that the church can learn from A.A.

Next week, we will take a brief look at the lives of the Apostle Bill W. and the Apostle Paul. Their lives were telescopes we can peer through to see our own lives closely and clearly. Their lives reveal what happens to people who experience spiritual transformation on a journey from disease to health; from emptiness to fullness; from curses to blessings, from supposed defeat to absolute success ~ regardless of whether they see themselves in “recovery” or not. Addiction may indeed be a disease; but recovery from it is a blessing that can be duplicated if we follow a spiritual path.

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  • Markus R

    Interesting writing. There is one major difference between these two men. One offers a way to stop drinking. The other offers a gospel that leads to eternal life.

  • Widuran

    Amen I love that

  • Kathleen G.

    I really like this article. The path to wholeness is different for each of us. The relationship between teacher and student makes all the difference. Just as one must be ready and open to hearing the teacher’s message, the messenger must be one who speaks in a voice the student can understand through their human experience. This opening to further discussion shows how different presentations of spiritual growth and transformation can reach wider audiences. I look forward to reading more.

  • Patrick

    The one that offers a way to stop drinking offers far more than that. The 12 Steps lay out a path to stop drinking, stay stopped, discover a relationship with God, clean up the wreckage from the past, and learn to depend on God for the eternal life that starts immediately upon placing faith and trust in God. Then that faith and trust is lived out in carrying a message of hope to those most in need of hearing it. In fact, only one step even mentions alcohol, that being the first step. The rest deal in a journey of coming to believe, deciding to trust, taking stock or account of our lives, trusting God to change us from the inside out, making amends to those we’ve harmed, praying and meditating for knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out in our lives, and finally to carry that message of hope. God himself turns hopeless drunks into beacons of hope for hopeless drunks.

  • jackie hayden

    It’s amazing the healing power God has and shows us through people like this. Opening your heart to God creates an abundance of blessings unseen before. This video series shows us many powerful messages from God.

  • Dwight Wolter

    I don’t see these as differences, Markus. Eternity begins now, not after you are dead. To stop drinking allows an addict a dramatic increase in the possibility of staying alive, spiritually and physically. With the opioid epidemic, for example, that is ravaging the country to the point where it is the number one killer of people under 50 in America ~ eternity is not my primary concern. Thanks for writing, Markus!

  • Dwight Wolter

    Thanks, Patrick. I agree with everything you said. Just yesterday I posted #12 in this year-long series on “Spirituality Within Addiction & Recovery.” The most recent post is titled “Having Had a Spiritual Awakening.” Having dealt, in previous posts, with the origins of AA; its relationship to church in its infancy (including the Washingtonians, Oxford Group, etc.); I have now moved on to this first of 8 things that “the church” and AA (or other 12 Step fellowships) have in common. There are more than eight, but those are the ones I will stress. Thanks for writing, Patrick. You are rather concise and eloquent.

  • Dwight Wolter

    When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Thanks, Kathleen, for writing.

  • Markus R

    I would guess that we see the root of problem differently. Addiction is first and foremost a problem of sin and idolatry. I’m not suggesting that some people are not helped by AA. Thanks for the response!

  • Patrick

    Thanks Dwight. I went to AA in the 80’s but switched to NA in the early 90’s and identify as a recovering addict. Nevertheless the 12 steps are the 12 steps, and I am still powerless over my addiction, and God is still God and I am not, and a spiritual awakening is still a spiritual awakening. I am extremely grateful for my recovery and for the efforts of Bill Wilson and the early pioneers of 12 step programs. Countless lives have been saved and transformed because they carried the message! Thanks to you for sharing this history and the connection with Christianity!

  • silicon28

    Addiction is a disease! You just proved why the church is so ineffectual in helping people find healing and recovery. Instead of helping treat the disease, you are just piling on ideological guilt. Way to be practically the opposite of what Jesus modeled for us.