This week’s Did You Know is a continuation from a South Bend history professor’s book, “Changed by Grace:” During the 1730s John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards discovered if they threatened people with hellfire, and used psychological manipulation to produce an emotional response it didn’t last long. If there were any behavioral changes, it was fear-based adherence to hundreds of rigid, legalistic, external rules. With no real internal character change (that is, in A.A. language, without having carried out the equivalent of fourth through seventh steps at sufficient depth), these people mechanically followed a system of neurotic, absolutist dogma, while barley suppressed anger, resentment, and depression poisoned their lives.


Because of the hot gospelers, the word “conversion” was no longer understood by most Americans in its original concept, and called it “being changed.” This put the focus back where Jonathan Edwards had originally put it in his Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God.

The goal was to produce a “real” character change—the replacement of old character defects with new positive character traits—which could be measured objectively in terms of totally changed behavior patterns that flowed from within rather than being imposed by external authority figures, and which continued over the months and years after the life-changing experience, as V.C. Kitchen described it: This whole change in the direction of my life can best, perhaps, be illustrated through a version of a game of “truth” taught me by a member of the Oxford Group.

We wrote down the five things we honestly like most in life. And we wrote down the five things we hated the most. Then—if any change has come into our life—we wrote them down again to show the comparison between our “old” life and the “new.”

This is how the game worked out for me: IN MY OLD LIFE I most liked: Myself, liquor, tobacco and almost every other stimulant, narcotic, and form of self-indulgence. (Anything that gave me pleasure, possessions, power, position and applause, or pumped up my self-esteem and to be left largely to myself.) My wife—because of the comforting and complimentary way she treated me. I hated most: Poverty (for myself), alcohol prohibition, work and people who disapproved or tried to interfere with my wants and any betrayal.

IN MY NEW LIFE: I most like God, time alone with Him, and the fellowship of living with Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God’s guidance. My wife—because of the unselfish things God now enables us to do for each other. Communion with other people who are trying to lead the same kind of Christian-centered life, and witnessing to what Jesus’ teachings mean to me.

I HATE MOST: Sin, because “I” is the middle letter of SIN that separates me from God and self-centered sins that separate me from other people and anything that falls short of God’s plan for me. This is closely similar to the kind of character change that Alcoholics Anonymous attempts to produce through practicing the 12 steps.

Bill Wilson changed the word sin, to “Character Defects.”

New members of A.A. hear older members describing their own life changes in vivid fashion, and once they too start practicing the 12 steps, they can see the same kind of character changes taking place in themselves and “SEEING IS BELIEVING:” the kind of skepticism about God introduced into western culture by the so called Enlightenment crowd is no longer credible! The tables become totally turned: people who have actually seen and felt God at work in powerful fashion in their lives now scoff at the skeptics and the atheists as people engaging in meaningless empty intellectual arguments about matters of which they have no real knowledge at all.

The Waynedale News Staff
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