“Did You Know” by an anonymous South Bend Professor: The word faith in Paul’s writings meant trust in that God of grace. It does not matter how I discover the God of love and grace—it can be through Jesus, or Moses, or Krishna, my A.A. sponsor, or the people in the meetings who love me until I can learn to love myself, or by whatever other route God works out for getting through to me—the only important thing is to discover God’s love and mercy and healing power, and then to put my complete trust in His ability to restore my soul. In the twelve step programs, we must totally surrender to God in order to find the path of life. Everyone with experience in the twelve-step program knows that. Faith is necessary because no human beings will ever surrender in that kind of way until we become willing to trust one to whom we are surrendering.
We must turn to God in prayer; we must ask Him what to do in this particular situation or that one; and then we must trust Him enough to turn our will and or our lives over to Him, and then simply attempt to follow his directions exactly the way He gave, then, acting as honest and trustworthy servants of a God whose love and goodness makes Him worthy of our total trust. We must also trust God enough to realize that we still have His full love even when—as inevitably happens—we fall short of the divine perfection. This is the way to faith.
V.C. Kitchen had been taught in church when he was young that we are justified by faith alone and not by works of the law. But before he came in contact with the Oxford Group, he thought that faith meant belief in church dogmas, and that we could automatically obtain the fruits of the spiritual life simply by believing the right doctrines and performing the correct religious rituals. Kitchen said, “Faith was taught by salvation in my early church life. But I was not taught how to make my faith anything more than belief in certain doctrines.” It seemed I had only to stand up, say I believe in Christ and submit to baptism. I then became a “full—fledged” member of the church. There was to me no real birth here. And there was no growth thereafter. I remained an adult-spiritual infant. The faith that was nothing but a credulous belief lay stored in my memory, like a suit of clothes stored in the attic, and no more useful.
And one of the biggest problems he had had as a child, Kitchen said, was that the church told him to believe all sorts of teachings about God’s enormous power, but gave him no proof that any of these things actually worked at the pragmatic level in real life: Without that proof of God’s living presence—without actually feeling His living power or seeing its results in my own life—I could not really trust God to do things for me. Without in fact, being able to receive His guidance, I could not even tell what He wanted for me or how He expected me to cooperate with Him in doing for myself.
In order to be intellectually honest, people living in the modern scientific world had to ask a major question about any kind of religious system, which required a credible answer. “What is your proof, in terms of something I can see or experience for myself in this world, that this all works the way your theory says it does?” The Enlightenment philosophers had asked that question in the eighteenth century, and had claimed that Christianity could not answer it, and had nothing but bogus claims to imaginary knowledge based on illusion and superstition. What the founders of the modern evangelical movement had realized was that no spiritual system could be effective in the modern scientific world unless it responded to this Enlightenment attack. So the eighteenth century evangelicals answered that hostile question by building a spirituality based on immediate personal experience, and not only defeated the attacks of the skeptics and atheists of their century, but produced an enormous revival of genuine religion throughout the English speaking world of their time. Unfortunately, by the beginning of the twentieth century, there were people all over the world who claimed to be evangelicals, who were in fact teaching only the old authoritarian and legalistic religion of works righteousness: being “saved” meant following all of their rigid fear-based rules about what kind of clothes you could wear and how you should fix your hair, and so on and so forth, and it meant accepting all their particular sect’s laws and rules with blind and unquestioning faith. These legalistic groups were trying to substitute contrived and highly emotional experiences at revivals—and an overpowering fear of going to hell when you died—for the kind of quiet contact with God’s love and presence which produces a genuine psychic change and deep personal transformation.
The Oxford Group revitalized the original vision of the evangelical movement and said, in effect: We do not ask for a blind faith. We will show you your proof. We will first show you people whose lives have genuinely been changed, and then we will show you how to perform your own spiritual experiments, so that you will be able to see, in your own life, the enormous spiritual power that comes from trusting God and placing your life under the care of his loving, healing hands. We know how to bring you a new world of hope instead of a nightmare of continual fear and if you become willing, we can prove it to you—although the Oxford Group became involved in politics, alcohol prohibition and other moral issues which caused their demise the spiritual axiom they used to produce a complete psychic change, spiritual awakening or spiritual experience is nevertheless still around today and is clearly outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.