Guest Post: My Friend John is Back!

And he’s written an informative article on some literature important to the 12-step fellowship:

Twelve Step Heresy: A Critique of

Emmet Fox’s The Sermon on the Mount

I wish I had a nickel for every time I have heard Emmet Fox praised as a principal author of non-conference-approved literature useful in the recovery process.  Believing that I was long overdue, I finally broke down and read The Sermon on the Mount[1] – Fox’s work that I hear referenced most frequently.  Upon finishing the first two chapters, I had said, alone but out loud, “What?!?  That can’t be what he means!” several times.  Having read the work through, I feel compelled to speak.

Dr. Fox repeats several themes that are central to recovery – the deflation of ego, constant thought of others, and utter faith in the power of God.  But he takes some of these precepts to, for me, an unheard of level.  The resultant conclusions sound, I cannot come up with a more accurate description, silly.

Here are just a few examples…

On page 49, Dr. Fox correctly notes that “…there is no virtue in martyrdom.”  I am sure that most martyrs would agree, and would have preferred that their beliefs did not require sacrificing their lives.  But then, he makes a left turn and asserts that “Did the martyr but possess a sufficient understanding of the Truth, it would not have been necessary to undergo that experience [martyrdom].”  Huh.  I need elaboration on this point, and Dr. Fox obliges with this statement:

While we may well envy the moral and spiritual heights which they did attain, we know that, had the martyrs ‘loved’ their enemies sufficiently – loved them, that is to say, in the scientific sense of the knowing the Truth about them – then the Roman persecutor – even Nero himself – would have opened the doors of their prison; and the fanatic of the Inquisition would have come to reconsider his cause.

This assertion attributes to the faithful person a degree of power that can only be considered Divine – the control of others free will.  The Roman persecutor, under orders, required the Christian prisoner to renounce Jesus and declare allegiance to Caesar and the Roman gods.  The faithful, with a degree of faith that I can only imagine, refused to deny that Jesus was the one, true King.  The result – the faithful Christians were fed to lions that had been starved for days.  The truth, or the Truth, about them (these enemies) was, well, just what is described above.  Ditto for the Inquisition.  A person bent on evil deeds may be inspired by the faithful to relent, but must make the decision to do so.

For a better discussion of this aspect of humanity, check out Leslie Weatherhead’s The Will of God, published about ten years after the subject work.

Now if you think that the above example was strange, then you will love this next one.  On page 57, he seeks to demonstrate examples of a human being’s ultimate spiritual growth and writes as follows:

…suppose that in a street accident you find that a man has severed an artery, and the blood is spurting out.  The normal course of things is that unless this bleeding is stopped the victim will die within minutes.  Now, what is the spiritual attitude to take in such a case?  Well, it is perfectly simple.  Immediately you perceive what has happened; you must turn the other cheek by knowing the Truth of the Omnipresence of God.  If you get this clear enough, as Jesus would, for instance, the severed artery will immediately be healed, and there will be nothing more to be done.

I know what you are thinking – John C must be taking this quote out of context or leaving something out.  I encourage you to read The Sermon on the Mount and see for yourself.  He gives another equally absurd example of a child lost down a canal.

Let me quickly add that I may simply be wrong here.  I may be missing something that a person with more experience would see immediately, and that the universally (in the recovery world) praised author is just speaking over my head.  Certainly this work contains a host of enlightening explanations of “The Book of Matthew.”  But on these points, I am still shaking my head.

John C.

[1] Fox, Emmet, The Sermon on the Mount, Harper and Row, NY et al, 1938, ISBN 0-06-0622950-0.


Posted on June 4, 2015, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Based on the above quotes, this book sounds like a torrent of BS unleashed upon the vulnerable (or gullible). And the attitude of conformity that can characterize much in the recovery industry means that those blindsided by the author’s inanity instead choose to demur, saying, “It’s over my head,” and those who have been led by their noses down the path of obedience agree that it’s wonderful and the Emperor’s clothes are beautiful.

    Thank you, sir, for pointing out his utter nudity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is things like this that make it hard for me to embrace AA. I am going to one meeting a week…I try different groups I wish I could find one with people that just wanted to get sober and mentally/spiritually healthy without all of the dogmatic stuff. I’ll keep looking….
    In reference to the quotes above, I don’t think you are off the mark…the above quote does seem “out there”…especially the one about basically leaving a man to bleed to death in the street. I think that kind of discussion about faith is worth having, but it’s a pretty extreme idea to put out there for people in recovery.


    • Hi Jenn, I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing difficulty in finding “your group.” I have been to many where I did not fit in, so I know the frustration well. I’m sure this suggestion is not timely at all, but I will throw it out anyway… ever try looking specifically for a women’s meeting? The women’s meetings in my neck of the wood focus almost entirely on the spiritual/mental.

      Just a thought. Thanks much for the comment!


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