Bill Gothard

General Teachings/Activities

Born November 2, 1934, Bill Gothard has two academic degrees from Wheaton College (B.A. 1957; M.A. 1961). His Master's thesis was entitled, "A Proposed Youth Program for Hi-Crusader Clubs." (Gothard's website now says: "Bill wrote his master's thesis at Wheaton Graduate School on seven Biblical, non-optional principles of life which, when followed, will result in harmonious relationships in all areas of life.") At one point, he devoted 35 hours per week to youth work with a Chicago missionary society while still a full-time student at Wheaton, 25 miles away. For approximately 15 years, he worked with teenage gangs in the Chicago area. He was ordained in the LaGrange Bible Church in suburban Chicago. [Bill Gothard has never married. "There have been reports of major problems developing from this position, but the real problem is that his ministry has become a family ministry and he has never had a family. He is the coach who never played the game" (Pastor Bob Cosby letter).]

In 1964, Gothard developed a six-day seminar that became known as the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (officially "founded" in 1973). The name of Gothard's organization was changed in 1990 to the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). The adult/teen seminar ("The Basic Seminar") is still called the Seminar in Basic Youth Conflicts. Gothard presents this seminar in person, or on videotape, in cities all across America. The 32-hour Basic Seminar outlines and elaborates on the seven basic principles, which Bill Gothard describes as Biblical and non-optional. Once a person attends this seminar, he becomes an "alumni" entitled to go to future Basic Seminars at no cost, and to other seminars at reduced cost. The Basic Seminar is now presented over a period of four evenings and one full day, for a total of 30 hours. Although it was not unusual in the 1970s for Gothard to pack-out auditoriums with capacities of 10,000 to 20,000 people, attendance at his seminars today pales when compared with two decades ago. (The height of the seminars' popularity came in 1982 and 1983, when they reached 300,000 in annual attendance. Today, a crowd of 3,000 is considered large for an individual seminar.) Nevertheless, Gothard's influence remains. It is estimated that there are more than 2.5 million red notebook-carrying "alumni" (which is in keeping with the image of "educator" that Gothard seeks to project), and he has a mailing list of approximately 90,000 pastors.1 (Recently, IBLP has formed Life Study Groups. Groups of 10 or more may conduct any one of IBLP's seminars privately for a per-participant fee.)

IBLP operates with a paid staff of about 300 out of its Oak Brook, Illinois headquarters. The organization reported revenue of more than $19.4 million and assets of more than $34.7 million on its 1998 tax returns, the most recent report available. (Gifts have totaled $70 million through the first half of 2000, the largest being the use of a 2,200-acre former university campus near Tyler, Texas, used by Gothard's ALERT program). The Institute's highest-paid employee earns $47,880. Gothard himself reports having received just $12,000 in salary and $18,000 in expenses in 1998. In 2000, Gothard says he will make $15,000. (This information is sketchy and outdated, because Gothard does not make financial information readily available.)

In addition to the Basic Seminar, IBLP also runs more than 60 other ministries, including conducting an Advanced Seminar, Children's Seminars (1992) (ages 6-12 -- "The Children's Institute in Basic Life Principles"), the Anger Resolution Seminar, the Financial Freedom Seminar, the Marriage Oneness Seminar (Secrets to the Ultimate Marriage), and special Legislative, Medical, and special training for public and private school teachers [ATI (1984) -- Advanced Training Institute home-based education program]. In addition, IBLP has a home school curriculum (through ATI using the Wisdom Booklet series [52 booklets]);2 operates the Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy (1994); operates the Telos Institute (1997) (a post-secondary, distance learning degree program), Excel (training for young women), and Verity (distance learning undergraduate degree); conducts "All Day Ministers' Seminars";3 and publishes a quarterly journal, Life Purpose: A Journal of God's Power in Us. Community ministries include orphanages, the Log Cabin program for troubled youths, ALERT, CharacterLink, and Character First!. (See Note on IBLP programs and affiliated organizations.)

Ecumenism

Scheduling a seminar for a city can be quite a production. A number of years ago there was a movement to bring a Gothard seminar to Cleveland. The groundwork was laid by General Association of Regular Baptist Church (GARBC) pastors. A sheet was circulated titled, "THREE PHASES IN SELECTING A SEMINAR LOCATION." (Caps in original.) Three steps were given and one was headed "Phase II - Petition for Seminar by Local Christian Leadership." The first sentence under this heading reads as follows: "This phase begins when the seminar headquarters receives personal letters of invitation from the majority of pastors representing the various denominations in a city's greater metropolitan area." (Emphasis added.)

That is the same policy Billy Graham uses. That explains the mixed crowd at a Gothard seminar, which will run the gamut from Roman Catholic priests and nuns, to the ecumenical crowd, to the new evangelical crowd. The fellowship of sitting for six days with that mixed multitude makes the fundamentalist layman go home saying, "The priest I sat beside was a very nice fellow." Attitudes toward false religion and plain unbelief are unavoidably softened by any participation in a Gothard seminar.4 (Source: New Neutralism II, pp. 73-74.) [It has been confirmed by a Gothard regional director's office that Gothard has Catholics on his local sponsoring committees as well as workers at his seminars5 (8/15/96, Calvary Contender).]

Widespread ecumenical fellowship continues to be no problem for Bill Gothard.6 Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright fasted 40 days during the summer of 1994, during which he claimed to have received a "prophecy from God" that a mighty revival is coming. He then issued a call for hundreds of liberals, charismatics, and new-evangelicals to gather in Orlando 12/5/94-12/7/94 to fast and pray for revival. An Invitation Committee for the first annual Fasting & Prayer Conference, made up of a hodge-podge of 72 liberals, new evangelicals, and charismatics, was formed. Included were: Robert Schuller, Charles Colson, E.V. Hill, Jack Hayford, James Dobson, W.A. Criswell, Charles Stanley, Paul Crouch, Luis Palau, Bill Gothard, Pat Robertson, Kay Arthur, and Larry Burkett. CCC's Bill Bright cites "a great sense of urgency to link arms and unitedly call upon God for help in the spirit of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 20)." This ecumenical "linking" is in the "spirit of Jehoshaphat" indeed, but the Jehoshaphat of 2 Chr. 18 (instead of 2 Chr. 20) where he "linked" with wicked King Ahab and incurred the wrath of God.7 (Reported in the 11/15/94, Calvary Contender.)

The 2/95 Charisma quotes various attendees at the 1994 Fasting & Prayer Conference. Pro-Catholic Charles Colson sees denominationalism as the biggest barrier to prison outreach. Carlton Pearson said lack of church racial integration hinders revival. Bright embraced him and asked forgiveness for white abuses and prejudices of the past. Charisma continues: "Then Bill Gothard said he felt impressed to share what he believed was a prophetic directive: 'God is going to use African Americans to bring revival to America.'" Charismatics have long claimed to have extra-biblical revelations and "prophetic words" from God. Now Bill Gothard is claiming the same.8 (Reported in the 3/15/95, Calvary Contender.)

More ecumenism: Bob Wood is a Bob Jones University faculty member specializing in "training ministerial students as biblical counselors." He is also a "victimization" psychologizer who "presents biblical solutions for helping those who are struggling to overcome the pain of their past" (2/95, Frontline video advertisement). Wood was also the main speaker for Gothard's "Church Strategy Seminars" (CSS) scheduled for 5/96 and 9/96. Also, Gothard's 1996 "Advanced Day Ministers' Seminars" (ADMS) were scheduled to be held in Assembly of God, Southern Baptist, and Missionary Alliance churches. (Reported in the March-April 1996, Fundamentalist Digest.)

Character Training

In 1991, the head of the Moscow Department of Education (DOE) was supposedly amazed at the youth she met who were a part of Gothard's Advanced Training Institute (ATI) working in Russia. She invited more ATI youth to Russia and 320 responded to come and teach character in the public schools of Moscow. Moscow's DOE also gave ATI a five-acre complex to use. Since that date, more than 2,000 students have spent various periods of time in Moscow teaching in public schools, working with orphans, counseling delinquent teenagers, assisting pensioner teachers, and doing other community service. This complex is now the campus for the Moscow College of the Advanced Training Institute, and also a Training Center and refuge for orphans and juvenile delinquents. News of the work in Russia has spawned invitations from Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Bolivia, Mexico, and China, as well as from many U.S. cities. (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) As of mid-2000, more than 75 cities worldwide have become part of Gothard's "International Association of Character Cities."

In 1992, the mayor of Indianapolis invited ATI young people to come to the city and to work in a low-income, high-crime area. There was a news article in The Indianapolis News (8/20/92) about the city of Indianapolis considering a link with Gothard: "Lambart (representing Gothard) said the group does not promote religion or church, but simply deals with 'non-optional, universal principles of life. [This sounds suspiciously like paganism's "universal life principles."] ... The concern within the social services community is that we help a person ... without any sectarian overtones.'" Why was Gothard trying to convince the city that he helps the community "without any sectarian overtones," while with Christians he claims to be totally Bible-based? Is this consistent with God's Word? (Reported in the 10/92, The Biblical Examiner.)

In February of 1993, Gothard set up a permanent facility in Indianapolis (Indianapolis Training Institute), claiming that "the results are achieved through standards of excellence and practical life application of what is learned. Only then will young people learn to be problem solvers and become effective in helping others." (Emphasis added.) The county's juvenile court began sending young offenders to a Gothard rehabilitation facility, the Indianapolis Training Institute, which serves as a school for more than 100 children. Some families have complained to the state when it was discovered that the "intensive family counseling" provided consisted of "viewing 15 IBLP religious tapes" (The Indianapolis Star).

The Indianapolis experiment has now been developed into a character training program in other parts of the U.S. Gothard stated, "Twenty American cities and states and other nations have officially invited the Institute and those who have applied the principles of this Seminar to help them build stronger families!" As of mid-2000, there were 17 training centers worldwide.

Gothard is at the forefront of the character education movement in this country (CharacterFirst!), which at its top is connected with the global ethics people (friends of Planned Parenthood and the World Bank crowd). Gothard reported in 1997 that "a leading Democratic senator in Washington, D.C. has learned about this plan and wants to meet with us to learn more about it for the purpose of presenting it to Congress for national application. He stated that Congress is looking for a character program that works." (Emphasis added.) (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) [Perhaps the anonymous Democrat senator desired to "character train" the then occupants of the White House?]

In 2000, IBLP purchased the Ramada Plaza Hotel in downtown Flint, Michigan, and has since turned it into the Riverfront Character Inn International Convention Center. The purchase was made possible by a multimillion-dollar donation from an anonymous donor. Gothard said he hopes the Character Inn will become a hub for IBLP -- part hotel, part conference center offering character training to individuals and groups. The rooms were being equipped with closed-circuit televisions to broadcast training videos and other IBLP programs. Yet, Gothard claims the CharacterFirst! program does not involve religion in any way. (Source: 7/9/00, The Flint Journal.)

CharacterFirst! is now being offered in more than 800 schools nationwide, and is required by law in 14 states. This character training (for K-6 children) appears to be quite similar to the unscriptural DARE program, which attempts to teach character to unbelievers. This is all part of the new character education movement in the country -- a mechanism to bring in a set of national core values which we must adhere to in order to be good citizens, and thus, maintain an orderly society. True Christians, however, won't fit into their new "core values" because the authorities allow no room for Biblical absolutes.9

One has to question, what will be the result of rearing a generation of kids who believe they can be a success in life without Christ? Second, what will be the result of teaching kids that they can have these good character traits without the Sprit of God. Worse yet, what if they actually can develop these good traits without Christ? Will they then think they do not need Christ? Third, the natural result of these classes will be that the kids will believe they are their own gods. They are the ones who are in control, and they are the ones who decide what is right and what is wrong. They have no moral standard to go by, that is, the Word of God.

One observer spoke with Ken Fahrenbruck, the director of Gothard's Character First! program. Fahrenbruck said he was a Christian, and he and his wife homeschool their children. He was asked about the attempt to build character without Christ, and the danger that could lead to. He said that he and the staff have also agonized over the same question, but Gothard assured him it was fine, and put together a paper justifying character education without God. [Source: The Biblical Examiner, Spring (March) 2002.]

Gothard's "Army"

Gothard operates what appears to be a paramilitary-like training school for teenagers on a 2,200-acre former college campus in Big Sandy, Texas, as part of his ALERT program (Air Land Emergency Resource Team) -- purportedly for domestic missions work via the providing of disaster relief and humanitarian aid (see second paragraph of Endnote #9). Gothard states that "ALERT is an intensive program in which young men [male graduates of ATI] ages sixteen and older are trained in Biblical principles, Godly character, and practical skills. ALERT utilizes military disciplines to train young men to restore life, rather than take it, and to bring peace and encouragement to those in distress. The present program involves the following phases: (1) Discipline: in physical strength, endurance, and self-control; (2) Skills: in a wide range of vocational specialties; and (3) Emergency Services: in response to calls from cities, states, and nations." (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) As of July, 2000, the program had 181 enrolled and 600 graduates.

Since the hyper-spiritual warfare motifs of the Latter Rain movement are beginning to take a sinister shift towards actual military, Gothard's involvement in paramilitary-like things causes us to wonder if there is a connection. Don't forget that Joel's Army has a "chosen seed" (the coming generation) to carry out its purpose on earth, which is dominion (both physical and spiritual). In this context, Christians should have some grave concerns about Gothard's activities.

Along these lines, Gothard has clearly bought into the "Christian America Myth" (ATI Wisdom Booklet 53). He believes that "Christian" conviction can be equated with Biblical faith. But, all religions offer some form of moral basis for society. Christian conviction cannot save a nation that continues to reject true faith in Jesus Christ. America flourished upon a "Biblical ethic" that has sustained it until recent years. But a Biblical ethic is not necessarily evidence of a Biblical faith.

The Gothard "System" (a.k.a. "Gothardism")

Gothard's Institute has in fact become a system unto itself. This system covers teaching on counseling, ministry, home, family, worship, church structure, divorce, adoption, dating, even hiring a church secretary. A whole church ministry program can be set up with a Gothard minister's manual. Some of that system, Gothard suggests, should be introduced into the church as curriculum. Even with a cursory examination, one gets the feeling that Gothard's system is much like the legal system of the Pharisees -- legislating, dictating, directing, and regulating just about every phase, every aspect, every move, every eventuality of life. Not much is left to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sanctified creativity, or just informed choice. (Source: "A Study in Evolving Fadism: The Dangerous Leanings of Bill Gothard's Teachings," The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach, April-June 1996.)

In a 1974, 22-page comprehensive analysis of Gothard's ministry by Dr. E. Robert Jordan (Chancellor of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary at the time), 15 reasons were listed "Why Fundamentalist Baptists Should Not Cooperate With Bill Gothard's Institute In Basic Youth Conflicts." Problem areas included Gothard's secrecy, salvation views, chain-of-command teaching, use of Freudian psychology, interdenominationalism, new evangelical jargon, and many doctrinal aberrations.

Gothard's seminars are "a mixture of human psychology and Scripture with emphasis upon 'problem' solving, correcting poor self-image, and developing wholesome self-concepts.10 The ministry does not draw clear-cut lines of demarcation regarding ecclesiastical separation, and his audiences are made-up largely of neo-evangelicals, the unconverted, charismatics, and naive, uninformed fundamentalists." Gothard's seminars are a duplicate in the teaching field of what Billy Graham does ecumenically in the evangelistic field. (Reported in the 4/1/90, Calvary Contender.)

Gothard's "system" places a heavy emphasis upon adapting Biblical principles/laws to Christian living, with the assumption that if one follows these principles/laws/steps, he's got the formula well in hand for leading a successful Christian life.11 (See examples on p. 32 of IBLP's Secrets to Self-Acceptance, and pp. 22-28 and 119-124 of the Rebuilder's Guide -- Gothard seems to have a seven-step program for just about everything.12) But "the system" smacks of legalism and putting the believer back under Old Testament law,13 and thereby, it is quite similar to the Theonomist heresy (i.e., that all the Old Testament laws given to Israel, except the ceremonial laws, are applicable today) espoused by the Reconstructionists.14 In fact, Gothard has stated that one does not even need to be a Christian to benefit from his seminars. The seminars are aimed at helping people be more successful where they are (i.e., "These principles apply to all: Jews, Christians, and Atheists." [4/26/74, St. Paul Dispatch]).15 Gothard seems to be using the Bible as a success course for all people.

In actuality, Gothard has substituted his laws for the Law of God. The New Testament is clear that we are unable to keep the Law of God, and that one of the purposes of the Law was to show us our need for a Savior. Given that, why should we expect to be able to keep the principles and laws of Gothard? Gothard replaces the sovereignty of God and a personal relationship with Him with formulas and principles. A former Gothardite puts it well: "Gothard's system is one whereby our actions or inaction and adherence to his principles make God pleased with us. I believe that Scripture teaches that God desires us to live lives free of sin, but my position before Him is totally dependent upon the Blood of Jesus and the utterly and totally finished work of the cross. Gothard has created his own Mishna, and in the process, has created a cult of neo-Pharisees. Paul referred to men like Gothard as dogs and mutilators of the flesh (Philippians 3:2) when they tried to put new believers back under the Jewish law. Bill Gothard has merely substituted his Institute's principles for the written and oral/rabbinical Jewish law."16

The Psychological Way

Gothard's concept of "accepting" one's physical defects teaches that God deliberately made people with deformities in order to glorify Himself. Notwithstanding Exodus 4:11, John 9 teaches that the defective gene pool caused by the Fall is the original cause of all deformities, all of which God allows to occur and then may choose to use to His glory. The Biblical teaching is quite different than Gothard's concept of God being some kind of gruesome author of physical defects, through which the recipient of the defect is to love himself anyway. (See the Gothard publication Secrets to Self-Acceptance, as well as page 122 of the Rebuilder's Guide.)

Gothard also teaches that one's undue concern for clothes may be an attempt to cover up or compensate for unchangeable physical features that the person has rejected. He claims that Jesus linked these two thoughts in Matthew 6:27-28 ("Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment?"). Gothard makes it sound as though Jesus is addressing the problem of shame over unwanted blemishes, a big nose, or the like. A glance at the context, however, reveals that Jesus had nothing of the sort in mind, but instead was addressing the sin of habitual worry (Matt. 6:25). "Jesus by no means was linking the two thoughts of clothing and a poor self-image, but by teaching that He was, Gothard also commits the error of anachronistic (chronologically misplaced) reasoning, by 'projecting' (if you will) the assumptions of 20th century psychology onto the teachings of Jesus" ("A Study in Evolving Fadism: The Dangerous Leanings of Bill Gothard's Teachings," The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach, April-June 1996).

Gothard teaches a methodology for birthing godly children, which is not only unscientific, but borders on the occult. Through what he calls "Pre-Birth Training," Gothard encourages pregnant mothers to read the Bible to the embryos in their wombs for the purpose of relaxing the embryo and for teaching it Biblical truth (supposedly "subconsciously" -- sounds like communication with the Freudian unconscious)!17 But a newborn baby can't even understand the Bible, how can an embryo? Of course, it can't, unless one believes in the thoroughly discredited concept of the Freudian unconscious. The extent to which Gothard carries opinion, seemingly made Scriptural, is far beyond what any reputable scientist would confirm.

Gothard continues to promote the pop psychology idea that birth order is a key determinant of human personality traits. The "birth order" concept has long been a favorite of psychologists such as humanist Alfred Adler. However, numerous studies have now shown this idea to be pure myth. [See pp. 235-237 of Prophets of PsychoHeresy II (reissued as James Dobson's Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology), by Martin & Deidre Bobgan.]

Nevertheless, in an IBLP publication Secrets to Self-Acceptance, Gothard teaches that, "Every child has special characteristics, tendencies, and needs which are directly related to his or her birth order. [The words, "Every child," and "directly related," certainly have the ring of an ordinal purist.] ... By accepting my birth order, I am able to bring my tendencies under the control of the Holy Spirit, thus avoiding the destructive rivalry and bitterness which often occurs among family members" (p. 6). (Emphasis added.) Not satisfied with merely attributing the cause of various problems of life to one's birth order (inside front cover), Gothard even (blasphemously) applies the birth order concept to the life of Christ; i.e., Gothard teaches that some of Christ's character traits are indicative of His being a first-born! (p. 19). What Gothard has done is to read into Scripture an unproven idea in the same way Minirth, Meier and other psychological integrationists "prove" that the Freudian ego-defense mechanisms are found in the Bible.

Gothard's teachings on self are also extremely psychological in nature -- the "Self-Image" section of his Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (IBYC) notebook is titled "Acceptance of Self." While Gothard's defenders claim that the self-acceptance focus of the ministry exclusively addresses how one should respond correctly to physical defects, in reality, well over 50% of the material in the aforementioned notebook section focuses upon "forming attitudes about ourselves." There is a two-page table entitled "Evidences of Self-Rejection" (which would perhaps be better titled "Evidences of Self-Love"), which claims that the Bible teaches all of the following (all emphases added):

(a) "... if we cannot love ourselves in the right way, we will also find it difficult to love others in the right way. 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself' (Mt. 19:19)."

(b) "Complaints about unchangeable physical features, abilities, parentage, and social heritage are significant indications of self-rejection."

(c) A "perfectionist" usually is a person with unhealthy self-rejection.

(d) People who worry about clothing have inferiority complexes. (This is a typical example of Gothard's theology -- he moves from experience to doctrine, from illustrations to principles and full-blown teachings.)

(e) What the Bible calls "pride" is actually humility in disguise -- "A person who appears superior is actually a person who inwardly feels inferior but is trying to narrow his field of comparison."

(f) "Self-worth increases as we make significant contributions to the body of Christ."

And in a more recent Gothard publication, Secrets to Self-Acceptance, not being able to accept oneself, or rejecting oneself, is classified as a defining cause of failure to love one's wife (inside front cover), and is cited as evidence of one's rejection of God! (pp. 16-17 & 23). Moreover, the symptoms of self-rejection are claimed to be communicated to the next generation (a kind of "ancestral" inferiority?) (p. 18). A list of 42 symptoms is given for the reader to determine if he has rejected himself, but has been covering it up (p. 24). Another Gothard selfism along these same lines:18

"Failure to properly love myself causes me to be unable to properly love others. ... Self-worth comes by knowing that I have a vital function within the body of Christ. ... Self-acceptance is the basis for glorifying God and being conformed to the image of Christ" (p. 23).

Moreover, much of what Gothard teaches on basic "needs" is strikingly similar to that taught by so-called Christian psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb. [Crabb's model of counseling is primarily a psychological system of unconscious needs motivating behavior, which is derived from Freudian (the unconscious being a hidden reservoir of the mind with drives and impulses which govern a person's thinking and behavior) and humanistic psychology (with its hierarchy of needs, with great emphasis on so-called emotional needs).] Gothard, like Crabb, sees man as having to meet three primary needs: acceptance, security, and meaning/significance. Approximately 10% of the Rebuilder's Guide is devoted to Gothard's teachings on need identification and satisfaction (pp. 128-153 & 204).

Last, but not least, Bill Gothard has promoted (and continues to promote) a Mormon by the name of Dr. Michael Ballam, who appears to be heavily influenced by New Age principles and psychological therapies. Dr. Ballam produces self-help tapes known as "Music and the Mind." In the mid-1990s, it is reported that Gothard's Institute promoted the teachings of Michael Ballam at a pastors' conference of about 1,000. Ballam's "Music and the Mind" audiotapes speak of such psychological and/or New Age/occultic concepts as "alpha levels," "right brain-left brain," and "planetary vibration tones," and give glowing testimony of children who were having extreme difficulty in school, then become excellent students and/or geniuses, thus reaching their highest potential, by mindfully listening to "special music" utilizing Ballam's so-called "music therapy." 

As of February 2004, Gothard continues to promote Dr. Ballam by offering Ballam's "Music and the Mind" audiocassettes on his website. Ballam's website promotes the concept of "Inspiration," which clearly implies that Our Lord Jesus was merely a channeler of power and/or energy in order to do His miracles. Equating Jesus Christ's miracle working power with the unique abilities of famous composers, Ballam's website states: "The powers from which all truly great composers like Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Beethoven drew their inspiration is the same power that enabled Jesus to work his miracles. It is the power that created our earth and the whole universe." (Emphasis added.) Ballam also gives credence on his website to such New Age concepts as biofeedback, guided imagery, meditative exercises, and all manner of self-empowerment techniques. [In a personal phone conversation with a concerned Christian in early-1998, Gothard defended his promotion of Ballam by saying he (Gothard) "was just trying to show the negative influences of Rock Music."]

The Medicine Man

Gothard has produced some twenty "Basic CARE" booklets/bulletins (24, including the Series Two booklets on medical philosophy) through ILBP's Medical Training Institute of America (MTIA). These booklets contain information and advice on a variety of medical topics. Gothard also presents diagnoses and cures for medical problems which, in some cases, could possibly cause serious harm -- even life-threatening consequences. It seems that some very risky and unwise choices can be made based on Bill Gothard's unclear and conflicting guidance in these matters. 

It is also clear that Gothard devalues the opinion of medical doctors, and by devaluing doctors' opinions in these matters, he removes the possibility of individuals making "wise" choices based on the most objective information available which has been provided by the doctors. Gothard declares, "Wise parents will not look at these circumstances from their point of view," i.e., doctors warning of possible serious complications, mental, and physical deformities, but will look instead "from God's bigger picture." How "God's bigger picture" becomes grasped by wise parents is not revealed. Many cult members have sacrificed their children and even their own lives on such subjective and presumptuous claims of having special knowledge of God's will. 

Another example of Bill Gothard's questionable medical teaching is found in his Basic CARE Bulletin #7. In this bulletin, "How to Avoid Unnecessary Cesarean Sections," in a section titled, "Getting a Word from the Lord," Romans 15:4 is quoted -- "For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." One might well wonder how God speaks today through the Scriptures to any concerned couple to give direction about Cesarean Sections! Here in Bulletin #7, the answer is provided. "A couple who is contemplating a VBAC [Vaginal Birth After Cesarean] should ask the Lord to give them a specific portion of Scripture that they can claim for the birth. Both the father and the mother should memorize and meditate on this passage and use it to conquer any fear that may come during the pregnancy or delivery." (Unfortunately, this mystical approach to "getting a word from the Lord" to determine God's specific will, is similar to the kind of divination Scripture clearly condemns. Nowhere in the Bible is the above "tea leaves" method of reading Scripture taught as a way to discern God's will.) 

In the Basic Care Newsletter of January, 1996, it was actually reported that in two situations the existence of Cabbage Patch and Troll dolls in the home effectively prevented the mothers from giving birth! Once the offending toys were removed from the homes, the women were able to successfully give birth. The "cleansing of the home from evil influences," was credited to the attending midwives committed to Gothard's teaching. It is scary to think that a midwife's first inclination might be to "cleanse" a home of perceived evil influences, rather than call 911 in the midst of a challenging delivery. Attributing this much power to a doll goes beyond the pale of reason and lapses into pagan superstition.

Too much of the medical advice offered by Gothard in his materials prescribes a distinctively mystical approach to diagnosing and solving medical problems. The expression "medical training," under which banner these bulletins are published, is a misnomer. Such mystical advice cannot truly be deemed "medical" since it is far removed from any scientific foundation. Moreover, it is downright dangerous. (Excerpted and/or adapted from "Bill Gothard's Evangelical Talmud, Part 4: Bill Gothard's Mystical Approach to Medical Issues," by Marty Butz, The Midwest Christian Outreach Journal, September-October, 1998.) 

Dating vs. Courtship

As an offshoot of Gothard's teachings on authority, Gothard teaches that young people must allow their authorities to determine whom they will marry, and that God can bless no marriage if it goes against parental counsel. In his booklet titled Establishing Biblical Standards of Courtship, beneath a picture of a couple riding bikes, Gothard writes: "Is this couple dating, or courting? The answer will have an important effect upon their lives, the lives of their families, and (if they marry) the lives of those in ever generation which follows. There is a definite and vital difference between courtship and dating. Unless this difference is understood and the principles of courtship are applied, defrauding and hurts can result, as well as lasting physical, mental, and spiritual consequences." 

Gothard must view dating as an abominable sin if it can have consequences "in every generation which follows!" Courtship, on the other hand, "is a father's agreeing to work with a qualified young man to win his daughter for marriage …" "the Lord has warned us not to follow our natural inclinations but to receive His precise guidelines for carrying out a Godly courtship." 

In defining dating and courting so tightly, and then juxtaposing them, Gothard creates a false dilemma by asserting that all who date do so for their own personal pleasure rather than with the motive of forming a mutual commitment, leading potentially to marriage. Why must Gothard's idea of "courtship," which is, in effect, arranged marriage, be the only alternative to casual dating, rather than serious, conscientious dating? In creating this false dilemma, he has set up his followers to accept the idea that there is only one divinely inspired, God-ordained method of finding a spouse. Any other way is sure to bring God's cataclysmic judgment on the couple and their descendants for generations. We find Gothard's courtship teaching to be unbiblical, unfair, unreasonable, unworkable, and, ultimately, unwise. 

One of the reasons Gothard gives to ban dating is that "through the deception of dating, Satan is able to reduce the fruitfulness of one's ministry both in singleness and in marriage." He reasons that single people spend too much time pairing off and enjoying companionship with members of the opposite sex. Hence, when they marry, they may soon get bored and "neglect the responsibilities of marriage to enjoy the benefits of singleness." 

Gothard argues that when a single person feels the need to have companionship, he or she is not being content with the Lord and "… unless we are content with the Lord in singleness, we will not be content with another person in marriage." In other words, feelings of loneliness indicate a spiritual problem. 

It must be emphasized again that in Gothard's system, under no possible circumstances is a courtship to be entered into without the consent of the parents. In his seminar Gothard says, "I'm firmly convinced that God never intended girls to turn down dates. He intended for their father's [sic] to." This principle applies equally to marriage. In Gothard's booklet Establishing Biblical Standards of Courtship, there is a page for sons and daughters to cut out, which is a covenant they sign with their fathers to "… demonstrate your commitment to God's plan for courtship instead of man's philosophy of dating. …" 

The young person must say to his or her father, "I will wait for your full release before entering into marriage." The father, in turn, tells his daughter that "I will protect you from unqualified men." To his son the father says, "I will protect you from strange women." This covenant is "between a father and a son as witnessed by the Lord Jesus Christ," and must be signed by the child, the father, and the family's pastor. 

In all of Gothard's writing and teaching on the subject of courtship and marriage, there is a complete absence of any understanding of this special kind of intimacy between a man and a woman that cements a marriage together. In Gothard's booklet Understanding the Biblical Foundations of Marriage, no mention is made of anything even relating to intimate love. When Gothard does mention love, it is cold and clinical. Although Gothard's teaching on courtship does not explicitly forbid romantic love, one gets the impression that if it happens it's a bonus, not an essential ingredient for marriage. Safety is what matters, and giving one's heart can truly be scary in an insecure world. (Source: Veinot & Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, pp. 253-256; 258; 276-277)

Other Problems with Gothardism

Other general problems with Gothard's "system":

(a) Makes dogmatic assertions on arbitrary matters (e.g., "God's order of worship"). He apparently believes that every Scriptural truth can be systematically tied-up with a neat ribbon, without any exceptions. He then selects a Scriptural illustration that makes it all look air-tight (e.g., see pp. 4-5 of Secrets to Self-Acceptance on adoptive parents and the death of a parent). To disagree with Gothard is, in effect, to disagree with God. This can create great division in the local church. In Gothardom, every issue can become a test of fellowship.19a

(b) Appeal is to submit to his system -- a system of legalistic rules -- often based on Old Testament ceremonial law, not to submit personally to God; God is thus turned into an impersonal Deity instead of a loving Father. With all the "universal, non-optional principles of life" that Gothard's Basic Seminar Textbook contains, there are literally thousands more pages of IBLP materials, all filled with lists of  "principles" for living the Christian life. How could anyone who reads them avoid drawing the conclusion that the Christian life is one of extremely complicated rule-keeping? Several Bible teachers have observed that legalism inevitably leads to license, because it frustrates the very grace of God. We need to become holy. Instead of being cleansed by God's Spirit, legalism depends on one's own efforts; and since man is not up to the task, sin invariably boils over in the human soul. 19b (Source: "Bill Gothard's Evangelical Talmud, Part 3: Gothard and the Law," by Ron Henzel, The Midwest Christian Outreach Journal, July-August 1998.)

(c) Teaches a social gospel geared to save society rather than the Good News of the humility of Christ through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. At its best, Gothard's system can only produce reformed sinners, not regenerated saints (Jan-Feb 1997, Fundamentalist Digest -- comments on Gothard's "most important letter -- ever" to "Pastors and Christian Leaders").

(d) Ignores a major premise of dispensational theology; i.e., the distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church. By "rightly dividing the Word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15) on the basis of Pauline Dispensationalism, there is no possible way that God's Old Testament promises and penalties concerning Israel can be applied to the heavenly Church; i.e., to the Christian, whose life is "hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). (Source: Miles J. Stanford, Gothardism: Charismatic & Covenant, 4/97, p. 2.)

(e) Has a misunderstanding of the doctrine of grace. The Advanced Seminar Textbook offers "operational definitions" that are misleading and wrong. The Grace of God, which is God's unmerited favor, is defined by Gothard as: "The desire and power to reproduce ourselves spiritually." In this redefining and recasting of grace, Gothard does not even come close. The source of grace is God, not ourselves. It is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9) -- the goodness of God manifested toward the ill-deserving. Furthermore, Gothard defines faith as "Visualizing what God intends to do." Faith is not visualization in any sense. Faith (Greek: pistis) is trust in God and His Word. Faith is clinging to God and His promises (Rom. 10:17). It is translated as trust in most of the Old Testament passages. It is a distortion to turn a strong Biblical concept into a watered-down human endeavor of visualization. (Source: "A Study in Evolving Fadism: The Dangerous Leanings of Bill Gothard's Teachings," The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach, April-June 1996.) [In a paper by Gothard titled Definition of Grace [IBLP:2000], Gothard attacks the Biblical definition of grace as "unmerited favor," calling it instead a "faulty definition." He says, "In the Old Testament, those who found grace possessed qualities that merited God's favor." This "meriting God's favor" contradicts the heart and soul of the Biblical teaching about grace. For Gothard, the primary purpose of grace is to assist Christians in keeping the Law, and a primary purpose for keeping the Law is to "earn" more grace! (Source: Veinot & Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, pp. 143; 147.)]

(f) Has a weak view of the seriousness of sin in God's eyes -- sin is at times referred to as "failure" (e.g., see Rebuilder's Guide, pp. 100, 194). In some instances, he seems to have also abdicated individual responsibility for sin (e.g., see Rebuilder's Guide, pp. 79, 87, 91).

(g) Views spiritual warfare for the believer to include mandatory binding and rebuking of Satan and his demons, and "praying a hedge of thorns" around one's estranged spouse (see Rebuilder's Guide, pp. 115, 119-121, 124). (Gothard also teaches the concept of "ancestral" demons.) Ed Silvoso, a charismatic "spiritual warfare expert" has also appeared with Gothard at his seminars.20 A 1992 booklet, Ten Reasons for Alumni to Be Encouraged, describes a typical demon deliverance ritual then being conducted at various IBLP meetings.21

Even spiritual warfare guru Neil Anderson (author of The Bondage Breaker) appeared with Gothard at a 6/94 Homeschooling Training Seminar in Knoxville, Tennessee. Almost without exception, demonizers are eradicationists. Via their experience-centered error, the old man is "crucified, dead and gone -- extinct." Hence, it is a simple matter to substitute a demon for the indwelling old Adamic man. Cast out the demon of a specific symptom, and the individual is "delivered." (Source: Miles J. Stanford, 4/97 report, Gothardism: Charismatic & Covenant.)

(h) Leaves followers with a false understanding of spirituality -- in two ways. One way is that some begin to think holiness is conformity to lists of rules and regulations; emphasis is placed on external rather than internal issues. People may perceive themselves to be more spiritual than others in the church based on adherence to dietary regulations, hairstyles, clothing regulations, types of music they listen to, or a host of other issues promoted by Gothard. Paul frequently wrote against the use of an external standard (Colossians 2:16-17, 20-23).  The other way concerns Gothard's mystical tendencies.22

(i) An overly rigid division and emphasis on the tripartite division of man into body/soul/spirit.

(j) Supports principles by the implications of the text rather than by the interpretation of the text, leading often to the implications becoming the main teaching (e.g., Job neglected his family, hence his problems). In other words, he comes to the truth via analogy instead of by doctrine; i.e., he creates an analogy, and on the basis of that, he builds a truth. This is dangerous because one doesn't know what the product of the Scripture is, compared to what the product of the analogy is, because it's all mixed-up together.23 (See also pp. 119-124 & 157 of the Rebuilder's Guide for Gothard's derivation of his "praying a hedge of thorns" doctrine.)

(k) Similar to (j) above, Gothard makes a goal out of a byproduct. Gothard is seemingly filled with this urge of trying to solve the problems of youth and taking care of "basic youth conflicts." He is making a goal out of a byproduct. One illustration of this is the great appeal he makes for the desire for success. He teaches that if somebody wants to be successful, you teach him how to be successful. But the desire for success doesn't need to be glorified, it needs to be crucified! The Bible tells us how to be OBEDIENT, and if I am obedient, the byproduct is success. (Source: The Projector, Frank Sells.)

(l) Heavy reliance on paraphrased editions of the Bible (Phillip's and Living Bible most frequently), allowing crucial principles to be established on the basis of the "feeling" expressed in the paraphrase. Gothard claims that every teaching from his seminars is "firmly rooted in the King James Bible," but that paraphrases, though not relied on for doctrine, "may be helpful in widening our understanding of a verse in its application" (personal letter on file).24 (How can either of these so-called versions be "helpful in widening our understanding of a verse in its application"? By relying on either of these Bibles for the application of doctrine is, by definition, relying on them for doctrine.)

(m) Guilty of mixing discovery with revelation. In one of his brochures, Gothard says that in his fifteen years of working with teenagers, he has "discovered" their problems. Then he takes the problems he has "discovered" and finds the answers in the Bible. The fallacy of this methodology  is that neither Gothard nor anybody else is qualified to discover the so-called problem any more than he is qualified to solve it. We need the statement of the problem from the Bible as well as the answer from the Bible. The Bible reveals both! Gothard in effect says, "Don't tell me anything about their problems. I know about the problems." The answer is, he doesn't! Both the problem and the answer need to be revealed from the Word, not discovered from experience. (Source: The Projector, Frank Sells.) (For example, where in the Bible is the teenager's need for acceptance and a good self-image? Gothard has obviously "discovered" this problem elsewhere.)

(n) Teaching on "Authority" and "Chain of Command" is unbiblical. Gothard teaches that children are to obey parents even when they know God's will is something different. He teaches that there should be an unquestioning accountability to the authority of parents, even after the child moves into adulthood, and even if the parents are unsaved (cf. Psa. 1).25 This includes the requirement that both sets of parents consent unanimously in their son's or daughter's selection of marriage partners, again, even if the parents are both pagans. Failure to obey this requirement, according to Gothard, will always lead to future marriage problems (see Rebuilder's Guide, pp. 78, 110, 154, 224, 235). (He also teaches that women are always to obey their husbands instead of God in matters of conscience.)

(o) Incomplete exegesis of Exodus 20:4-6 (and apparent ignorance of Ezek. 18) has led to the unscriptural teaching that children are guilty for the sins of their forefathers.26 This is the Charismatic error of applying Old Testament generational retribution to the church (Miles J. Stanford, Gothardism: Charismatic & Covenant, 4/97, p. 1). For example, Gothard teaches that the "sons" must agree to the guilt and ask God to remove its consequences, and that parents of an adopted child should research the child's biological parents and pray with the child for forgiveness, even casting out demons if necessary. He also warns against adopting a child altogether, because you might be adopting one that has been cursed (Exo. 20:4-6 again).27 (See Rebuilder's Guide, pp. 160 & 181; and "Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend to Have More Conflicts," IBYC, 1982, pp. 1-2.) The only result of such a teaching is guilt -- something Gothard seems to desire to produce in his followers.


IBLP Programs and Affiliated Organizations

Among the programs or organizations affiliated with the institute in Basic Life Principles are (Source: The Flint Journal, "Low-keyed evangelist emerges as major player in Flint's future," July 9, 2000, pp. A-1,A-10):  [As of July 2000; Some of the ministries and numbers have been updated from IBLP's 1/2004 website.]

Seminars: Basic Seminar; Advanced Seminar; Children's Institute; All-Day Ministers' Seminar. All are based on principles Gothard [supposedly] gleaned from Biblical principles. More than 2.5 million people have attended the Basic Seminar, by the Institute's count. 

Education: The Telos Institute, a post-secondary [distance learning] degree program that integrates Biblical principles and character training with life skills, has a current enrollment of 336. [Telos students may earn an associate of arts degree in Character Development Services, and an associate of arts degree in Child and Youth Character Development. Preliminary studies in mechanical engineering are also available.] Oak Brook College of Law, a four-year juris doctorate correspondence program that offers a legal education with a [supposedly] Biblical basis, had 21 graduates earlier this year [2000] in its inaugural class. Advanced Training Institute, a home-based education program focusing on moral, intellectual and spiritual development, has 12,800 students. 

CharacterFirst! Education: The character-training program is offered in 800 schools across the country.

International Association of Character Cities: Provides materials and assistance to municipal leaders committed to reinforcing positive character in their communities. More than 75 cities have adopted the program.                       

Air Land Emergency Resource Team (ALERT): Composed of male graduates of the Advanced Training Institute, the program is activated at the request of government officials and provides disaster relief and humanitarian aid, as well as aerial, land underwater search and recovery. The program is based on a 22-acre former college campus in Texas donated to the Institute. The program currently has 181 enrolled; it has 600 graduates. 

Training Centers: The institute operates 17 centers worldwide that offer character-based training for individuals, businesses, orphans, and juvenile delinquents. 

CharacterLink: The Internet service provider displays content blocks and other safe access options. There are more than 1,300 subscribers.

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Bibliography

Other sources of information concerning specific errors in Gothard's teachings. (These sources are not available from BDM, but the two items authored by IBLP are currently available from Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles, Box One, Oak Brook, IL 60522):


End Notes

1 Gothard's organization is an educational road show that teaches his unique view of Scripture. His seminars offer self-help, presumably from the Bible, in the form of lists and steps to solving life's problems. He has a subjective and personal interpretive scheme, and finds in God's Word what no one else has. (Source: "A Study in Evolving Fadism: The Dangerous Leanings of Bill Gothard's Teachings," The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach, April-June 1996.)

Gothard promises seminar attendees: "Using this Seminar as a foundation, we can now offer you an unprecedented series of further educational, informational, and character development opportunities that will be the best guarantee that your sons and daughters will avoid the destructive pressures of our day ..." (Emphasis added.) [Notice there is no mention of faith in Jesus Christ as a guarantee of anything!] Gothard continues, "you want to break destructive habits; conquer anger, guilt, and bitterness; restore vital relationships with family and others; experience true freedom and happiness; understand why things happen to you; and discover God's purpose for your life ... THIS SEMINAR IS FOR YOU. This Seminar presents seven non-optional, universal principles which every person must follow regardless of culture, race, religion, education, or social status. These principles teach people how to have successful lives, marriages, families, and businesses." (Italics added.) (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) It is almost as if Gothard is saying. "With all the promises and guarantees we offer, who needs Jesus Christ!"

Gothard advertises Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar ("The Basic Seminar" -- $75 for an individual; $125 for a married couple) topics as follows: "(1) How can I break habits which I know are wrong?; (2) What are the eight keys to true success and happiness?; (3) How can I resolve major conflicts with parents and others?; (4) How can I have a happy and successful marriage?; (5) What are the three root causes to which all major problems in life can be traced?; (6) How can I overcome guilt from past failures?; (7) How can I have freedom from financial pressures?; (8) How can I resolve anger and bitterness toward others?; (9) How can I conquer boredom and discover purpose in life?; (10) How can I conquer fear and overcome feeling inferior?; (11) How can I establish true friendships? ... PROVEN RESULTS" (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) Notice the focus on self and what "I" can get out of this -- where's the focus on Christ and Him crucified?

Amplifying further, Gothard says, "The Basic Seminar addresses seven Biblical principles that apply to every person, regardless of culture, race, religion, age, education, or social status. A sampling of the topics include insights on how to break unhealthy habits; resolve anger, guilt, bitterness, and fear; and discover real purpose for life.  ... Designed for alumni of the Basic Seminar, the Advanced Seminar discusses more specific application of how Biblical principles apply to marriage, family, education, financial responsibility, and additional topics. ... In the Financial Freedom Seminar, IBLP board member and real estate developer Jim Sammons shares Biblical perspectives related to debt, business relationships, and stewardship he learned after experiencing an overwhelming financial collapse. Mr. Sammons intersperses Biblical counsel with personal anecdotes and lessons drawn from his own financial woes and successes. ... Each Children's Institute is held in concurrence with a Basic Seminar and uses nature stories, object lessons, and a 'team' approach to encourage children aged 6-12 to understand the importance of Godly character. Its purposes is to turn the hearts of children toward their parents (see Malachi 4:6) and to assist parents in building strong families. [Held in concurrence with the Basic Seminar, it offers 21 hours of instruction and has taught 88,000 children since its inception in 1992.]" (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 10/00.)
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2 To enroll in Gothard's ATI home schooling program, parents and enrolling children are required to complete the Basic and Advanced IBLP Seminars (and pay the yearly $675 per family tuition fee). Families must agree to many guidelines in order to be accepted into the school and continue in it. At the yearly ATI conference, the dress code is nearly a uniform consisting of a white shirt and navy blue pants or skirt. They must follow a dress code while they are homeschooling, and the curriculum itself describes in detail what is required for proper and modest dress and grooming. Beards are not allowed, but an exception is granted to those who have one because of religious conviction. Once in ATI, a family is sent the curriculum on a regular basis. The curriculum consists of 52 Wisdom Booklets, which provide nearly all that is required to complete the education. These booklets make a stack just over a foot high. When a family has completed all the booklets, they start again from the beginning. The curriculum is intended to be used for all ages simultaneously -- K-12.

Gothard claims that "As students explore information, it passes (consciously or unconsciously) through a grid of presuppositions in their minds. After the information is evaluated by this 'grid,' it is acted upon." (Emphasis added.) One of the goals of the training is "To identify each son and daughter's purpose in life and establish direction for their training." One of the "Tools" to accomplish this is a "Life Purpose Appraisal," which sounds much like personality testing! (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) [Must reading for anyone desiring a fuller understanding of the origins, techniques, and goals of personality testing would be Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing, by Martin and Deidre Bobgan, EastGate Publishers, Santa Barbara, CA, 1992, 213 pages.]
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3 These "All Day Ministers' Seminars" are purportedly for "senior pastors and Christian leaders" and their wives; it "addresses current issues facing ministers and Christian leaders and provides training and encouragement" (IBLP Internet web site, 10/00). A recent seminar covered the following topics: "(1) How to reach the heart of your listener by understanding his true needs; (2) How to respond to people who live by their own rules; (3) How to meet an urgent need in your church with new answers on Anger Resolution; (4) How to bring the light of Christ back into your public schools (A new opportunity!); (5) How to develop three unexpected qualities that God looks for in a leader He uses; (6) How to avoid defeat by understanding the five aspects of temptation; (7) How to have a prayer ministry that is guaranteed to get results in your community; (8) How to win the heart of a rebel (vital for parents); and (9) How to develop a passion for souls." (Emphasis added.) And for the pastor's wife: "(1) The key to finding inward rest (Elisabeth Elliot teaching); (2) How to help your husband be known in the gates." (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.)
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4 In an 8/97 personal letter from Gothard, he excuses his ecumenically-attended meetings to the fact that publicans and Pharisees attended the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. He failed to note a key difference. The Pharisees hated the Lord Jesus Christ and quickly made plans to destroy Him. They did not sit under his ministry and enjoy it and return to hear more. If Gothard were faithful to the Scriptures in his teachings, modernists, new evangelicals, off-the-wall charismatics, and Roman Catholics would be convicted of their errors or would not be returning to his seminars. (Source: 3/27/97, FBIS; adapted from a response to a 2/97 Gothard letter.)
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5 Quoted from a California pastor named John Mincy (8/15/96, Calvary Contender).
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6 A former Gothard ATI Family Coordinator reports that when traveling in Russia in 1992, visiting churches and holding mini-training seminars for the ATI families, he refused to attend the unbiblical churches he was ordered to attend. He was forced to resign. (Personal e-mail on file.)
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7 In spite of ample evidence of ecumenical compromise on Gothard's part, in an 8/97 personal letter Gothard claims to be a Biblical separatist and lists six things he separates from. (False doctrine was not on the list.) One item listed was fornication. It appears that Gothard is hypocritical in this matter also. Dr. Samuel J. Schultz, professor emeritus of Old Testament, Wheaton College, was a member of the Board of IBYC (IBLP) from 1965 to 1980. On the occasion of his resignation from the Board, due to a sex scandal involving Gothard's brother, Steve (IBLP employee and vice president at the time), and some female members of the IBLP staff, Schultz read the following paper to the Board. In part, he stated:

"On May 14, 1980, we as Board members were shocked to learn of the gross immorality that had prevailed for some time among the staff under Bill's supervision as president. The disruption that followed adversely affected the lives of almost the entire staff and families associated with IBYC. Their confidence in Bill was shaken, and his credibility deteriorated rapidly in the wake of this tragedy. Steve Gothard (Bill's younger brother) and the seven female employees with whom he has been involved sexually were dismissed immediately. If any of us assumed that this was the basic problem, we were soon made aware of the almost total loss of confidence by the staff in Bill as an administrator and teacher in the seminars. The basic charge: Bill does not practice what he teaches. By July, Bill's leadership was bankrupt. On Saturday morning, July 5th, a member of the Gothard family shared in detail with the Board that Steve Gothard has also been deeply involved in pornography. The staff communicated to us that they could not conscientiously promote the seminars since Bill was not consistent with his message. This assertion is documented repeatedly by staff members as they resigned throughout the rest of the year. ..." (Source: Miles J. Stanford, Gothardism: Charismatic & Covenant, 4/97, p. 4.)

Dozens of employees resigned, angry at the way Gothard handled the incident, the Chicago Tribune reported. Bill Gothard also resigned, but he soon returned to the ministry (less than a month after leaving). In 1986, Steve Gothard went to court, alleging that brother Bill had tricked him into deeding his home and 360 acres of property in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Institute. Steve Gothard dropped the suit in 1988 and told the Tribune in 1992 he has nothing but praise for his brother. (Source: 7/9/00, The Flint Journal.) [Bill Gothard also had some morality problems of his own. It was reported in the 4/5/98 issue of the  L.A. Times that "Bill Gothard was seen by staff members patting and fondling women employees. Later, he admitted in staff meetings that these actions were 'moral failures' on his part" (Veinot & Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, p. 54).]
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8 In a February 1997 letter to Calvary Contender's editor, Jerry Huffman, Gothard says he has not and does not give "prophetic directives," as the 2/95 Charisma reported. The question to Gothard that goes begging for an answer is (from Huffman's response to Gothard): 

"Why have you not cleared this up with Charisma? It is the main magazine of the charismatics, it is down there near where the meeting was (in Florida), and was friendly to the Bright gathering. So I assumed they would quote you correctly. But by you not first pursuing a retraction from Charisma (a six-digit circulation magazine), the source of the 'error,' but instead faulting me for a one-sentence reported quote from you (in my barely four-digit circulation little newsletter) is puzzling. I can see how some might conclude that by leaving the 'prophetic directive' remark unchallenged in Charisma would tend to boost your attendance from charismatics at your meetings, but to cover all bases, this must not be reported to Fundamentalists. I certainly hope this is not the case and would hope that you would, even two years later, write a letter to the Charisma editor to correct their 'erroneous' quote. ... If you plan to do this, or take other action to clarify this, please let me know and I will gladly inform CC readers." 

As of January of 2004, Gothard has still not responded to Mr. Huffman.
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9 Gothard claims: "Now is the time that you and your church can have a profound part in literally changing the direction of America. The opportunity of the century is now here! Over twenty U.S. cities and states and other nations have officially invited us to work with their troubled youth and help them build stronger families! Whole cities are now sponsoring a Basic Seminar after one city experienced a 50 percent drop in juvenile crime only four months after their Basic Seminar. Other cities are asking us to bring our young people into their public schools to teach their faculties and students how to develop character qualities such as honesty, diligence, obedience, gratefulness, responsibility, virtue, initiative, orderliness, and attentiveness. A pilot program has already been approved by the curriculum director and other school officials in Oklahoma City and will be under way February 3, 1997!" (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.)

The state of Arkansas is one of 14 states that have required character training in the schools. Moreover, Arkansas has mandated Gothard's CharacterFirst! character training program be used: "The plan calls for teaching character in all their public schools and, at the same time, enrolling thousands of outstanding high school boys in an 'Arkansas ALERT Program' (Air Land Emergency Resource Team). These young men would learn personal disciplines, character qualities, practical skills, and basic life principles. They would respond to needs throughout the state and enlist welfare recipients to work with them on special projects. A superintendent of a school district in Arkansas has offered his schools for a totally new approach to education. We would restructure his schools around age-integrated learning teams rather than the traditional age-segregated classes. The older student team leaders would be trained to be role models and to work with younger students on their teams. Teachers would be guides, academic consultants, and professional tutors working to serve the parents, who would accept primary responsibility for their children's education and facilitate further teaching in the home." (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.)
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10 In an 8/97 personal letter from Gothard, he pleads that his teaching cannot possibly be psychological, because he was not trained in psychology nor has he "read the works of secular or Christian psychologists or psychiatrists." However, it is not necessary to be trained in psychology to use psychological ideas. These psychological teachings have thoroughly saturated our society and the church has absorbed them. Gothard's work shows clear evidence of this through his teachings on self-acceptance, self-rejection, self-image, self-love, self-worth, and the need theology teachings of Larry Crabb. Contrary to Gothard's claim, none of this comes from "studying the Scriptures." (One attendee at an "All Day Ministers' Seminar" in New Jersey reported that pop psychologist Dr. James Dobson was favorably referred to many times by Gothard. In addition, left-brain/right-brain guru and self-love proponent Gary Smalley worked for Gothard for ten years.)

Also contradicting Gothard's claim that he is psychology-free, with all of his teachings firmly rooted in the Scriptures, is a 1993 booklet published by IBLP titled How to Conquer the Addiction of Rock Music. One section is titled, "How the Rock Beat Creates an Addiction: Explained by a Psychiatrist" (pp. 81-85). The psychiatrist is a man by the name of Verle Bell, formerly of the Freudian-based Minirth-Meier Clinic (Chicago), who not only runs a psychological counseling "ministry" in the Chicago area, but has also conducted in-house teaching/training of the IBLP staff.
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11 Testimony from a former Gothardite: "It made so much sense at the time. He had an answer to everything. I was having problems at work and Mr. Gothard pointed out that I had failed to submit to the authority of my boss and work the eighty hours a week he demanded. For an electrical engineer, I wasn't making quite as much money as I thought I should and Mr. Gothard attributed it all to a loan that I had taken out and I was receiving God's chastening for violating His principles. In college, I had trouble in some of the more esoteric mathematical and electrical engineering classes, ... it was because I had gone to public school and state college and listened to rock music while doing so and God just couldn't help me because of that sin. Marital problems, chalk that up to rebellious music, television and failing to follow God's plan of courtship instead of dating. Mr. Gothard presented a world in which God had established principles to govern reality. These principles were such a strong influence in this world that Gothard teaches that we can come to know God by knowing His principles. His Institute also teaches that if we honor these principles, God is required to honor us. This stuff made perfect sense the first time I heard it. All of my problems could be attributed to my unwitting failure to honor these principles. If I had just gotten the formula right, God would have had to make me a success."

And from another former Gothardite: "Mr. Gothard does not teach these wonderful truths which will set us free from the power of sin (the law) and to allow the Holy Spirit to empower us to be everything we were meant to be. No! He teaches how to be enslaved to the power and the penalty of sin. There is no freedom of the Spirit to lead in one's life. Gothard must think he has the blueprint for one's life. By the time you have "progressed" to the elite "home education" seminar, he will dictate when to get up in the morning, how to dress, what to eat (dietary law), what music to listen to, how to us the TV (never) and the newspaper (let others screen it for you), not to use contraceptives, when to have sex with your mate (based on Levitical law), what colors and styles to use in your dress, how to clean your house, how to check your mail, choice of toys, whether a man should wear a beard or not, how to use your money, how you should worship, how to be cleansed from sin, how to be right with your brothers, friendships, dating, and the list goes on. Gothard's blueprint is indeed a "how to" religion which gives people no room for personal Christianity. It is a way of controlling and cloning people. What area of life would the Holy Spirit be able to interact with a person under this system? Does Gothard know the mind of God so well that he can dictate so many details in the lives and hearts of God's people? Wouldn't this also isolate these people from any truth or added information from sources outside of the Gothard camp? Would it enhance an arrogance of superiority in the body of Christ because no one but Gothard knows God's way? (Source: Veinot & Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, pp.198-199.)

Christians should be extremely wary of anyone who teaches that God requires the practice of the Old Testament Law or portions thereof in order to become successful in one's spiritual life. On the contrary, the apostle Paul tells believers that they are "delivered from the Law" and are "become dead to the Law" (Rom. 7:4). He adds, "Now we are delivered from the law ... that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter' (Rom. 7:6). The Law revealed sin (Rom. 7:7) and served as a "schoolmaster," pointing forward to Christ. The New Testament believer is to derive his instruction for "successful" living from the New Testament, realizing that the power to accomplish the obedience of faith comes from the Holy Spirit. Mixing law and grace as Gothard does inevitably results in the confusion of basic, theological principles. (Source: May-June 2000, Foundation.)
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12 Gothard seems to truly believe that his seven principles, applied diligently, will insure that God's desires are carried out in the lives of those who follow them and that the adherents will be the better for it. These "principles," rather than a relationship with God, are the focus of Gothard's teaching. The following seven steps, or principles, are recalled by a former Gothard follower: (Source: Veinot & Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, pp. 49; 207-209; and IBLP website, 1/04.)

And from a letter to Miles Stanford from an attendee of a Gothard seminar: "The first time I heard the identification truths at a Gothard seminar was in May of 1982. Bill shared the truths in a seven-step approach. He told the crowd that if any of the seven steps were not acted upon one could not expect victory over sin. This is typical, as Bill is a collector. During the scandal crisis of BIYC, several of the staff were reading [Watchman] Nee's book The Normal Christian Life. One of the staff was being groomed to replace Bill should the need occur. This brother did all the video seminars. He met with Bill one Sunday and shared how he saw the Institute endorsing the law instead of grace. Others shared this same burden with Bill, and out of all of them he developed these seven (who can argue with the perfect number?) steps. Many expressed to me how excited they were that Bill was teaching Romans Six, and I hoped that God was turning the sex scandal around. But I was disappointed when I heard first-hand just what was being taught. Bill makes the truths of Identification a human activity -- more of a formula than a living truth. And I am afraid that these truths are no more than another file in his drawer. Our identification with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension is not the central truth of Bill's ministry, but just another truth." (Source: Miles J. Stanford, Gothardism: Charismatic & Covenant, 4/97, pp. 3-4.)
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13 In his Advanced Seminar handout titled "Appendix on the Place of Old Testament Law in the Life of New Testament Believers," Gothard makes it clear that he does not believe that keeping the Old Testament Law will save any individual. Nevertheless, he advances the idea that the Old Testament Law plays a vitally important part in the life of the believer who desires to fulfill God's will. He says Jesus "understood the continuing value of the Law in the lives of believers" and adds, "The Holy Spirit will guide our daily lives by all Scripture, including the Law, and give us the power to obey His Word." He believes "the [Old Testament] Law is God's infinitely wise and masterful 'blueprint' for success in personal living, financial decisions, marriage, family, health and community life." Gothard plunges into great detail to explain his ideas, but he continually uses Scripture out of Its proper, dispensational context, or even edits the Scripture verses so as to force the text to support his own theology. (Source: May-June 2000, Foundation.)

Also from Gothard's Advanced Seminar materials: He believes that the Old Testament menstrual taboos are for the New Testament as well. He equates "uncleanness," as the Old Testament refers to the menstrual cycle, to the "uncleanness" of the New Testament, which is always in the context of refraining from fornication, adultery, lasciviousness, etc. The conclusion is, of course, that the Old Testament sin of "uncleanness" is equal to the other sexual sins mentioned in the New Testament. Gothard appears to be using the same English-translated word for "uncleanliness" to build his case for marital abstinence. Page after page of material discusses sexuality in terms implying that it limits one's spiritual "power." As a result, there is a strong push in Gothard's system for very frequent periods of marital abstinence, in order to devote oneself to "prayer and fasting."
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14 Gothard does not profess to be a Theonomist. However, his interpretation of Matthew 5:17 clearly takes a Theonomian position. Like the Theonomians, Gothard believes Christ’s basic meaning was to reaffirm the validity of the Law for all time. Nonetheless, Gothard’s view goes beyond that of the Theonomists. He, too, believes that modern civil laws should be based on Scripture, but he also strongly promotes the ceremonial requirements of the Law for Christians today. In this, his belief comes closer to that of another group outside of evangelicalism: Seventh-day Adventists. (Source: Veinot & Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, p. 129.)

A Baptist pastor wrote saying that his seven children are involved in home schooling with the Gothard ATI curriculum -- "The improper interpretation of the Scripture and non-dispensationalism viewpoints are beginning to show in their attitudes, comments, and lifestyles. The beard issue started my concern (if you have one you are not in submission to God)." Gothard teaches that beards indicate a lack of humility. (Personal e-mail on file.)
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15 In September of 1996, forty officials representing Russia and the U.S. Embassy attended a formal dedication of Gothard's (character) Training Center. The "Russian Parliament adopted a declaration from a committee of experts stating that the Biblically based principles taught by the Institute would be beneficial for all Russians to follow." (Emphasis added.) (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.)
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16 Another example of Gothard's "system" is the IBLP Advanced Seminar Textbook -- Gothard provides information on how women are to select makeup and choose colors that enhance skin tone, how to choose a hair style, how to wear accessories, and the place of accents on the clothing, as well as how to stand (with illustrations) and why to avoid any slits in the skirt (pp. 276-281). Beyond these materials is a large set of notes called Advanced Training Institute of America. In it he teaches on self-image, responsibility, conscience, rights, freedom, success, purpose, friends, engagement, finances, gratefulness, and prayer. With material this extensive, one can only wonder when there would be time to read the Bible.

Some of the material borders on being silly. Proverbs 6:6-8 advises us to think ahead like an ant and to make proper provision for the future. The simple illustration and context are very clear. But why leave it so simple and so easy? From the Biblical illustration, Gothard develops an elaborate 20-point system (with drawings and illustrations) around ants! (Source: "A Study in Evolving Fadism: The Dangerous Leanings of Bill Gothard's Teachings," The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach, April-June 1996.)
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17 Gothard perverts Scripture to prove an unscientific psychological opinion. He says in an 8/97 personal letter: "When John the Baptist was in his seventh month in the womb, he distinguished the voice of Mary and leaped for joy when he heard her speak." He obviously is referring to Luke 1:41-44, but ignores Luke 1:15. This is not an every-child situation; this is a special child ordained from the womb by God and "filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." It appears Gothard is saying that what was true for John the Baptist is true for all babies in the womb. The other verse used by Gothard is 2 Timothy 3:15. He says, "The Greek word 'brefos' means infant, and can include an unborn child." I know of no Greek scholar who would say that this verse refers to an unborn child.
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18 See also pp. 93, 122, 133, 135, 139, 166-167, and 204 of the Rebuilder's Guide for more of Gothard's current teaching on self-acceptance/self-rejection.
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19a Gothard has a unique strategy for marketing his own books and material -- you could only get them by attending his seminars. One effect of this was that no one who had not actually attended a seminar had access to what Gothard was teaching. At his seminars, Gothard publicly discouraged attendees from even discussing materials outside of the seminars. Since you could not just go out and buy a Gothard book at a Christian bookstore, Christian book reviewers could not read them and point out any problems found in them. Therefore, almost no one was able to read any critical analysis of any problems. It also meant his books were generally unavailable to Bible professors, theologians, and those engaged apologetics and discernment ministries.

Gothard once accused Pastor G. Richard Fisher of being opposed to Bill's teachings in order to justify his (Fisher's) desire for alcohol. The interesting aspect of this accusation is that Fisher practices complete abstinence from alcohol. But as has occurred frequently in the past, passing false information about others is not an uncommon thing for Gothard. At the same time, he is very concerned with keeping negative information about himself and the Institute from getting out to the public, for he considers it "unbiblical" for others to criticize him. During a staff meeting at the time of the sex scandal, Gothard introduced a brand-new teaching on Matthew 18. He passed around a large poster-like contract for all to sign promising never to "give an evil report but only say good things about other people." According to former staff members, this teaching was meant to intimidate the staff and squelch any critical talk about what was going on within the organization. Any discussion of perceived problems was to be considered "gossip." Bill Gothard equates disagreeing with his teaching and methodology to doubting the Word of God. (Source: Veinot & Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, pp. 53, 67, 72, 94, 95.)
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19b An example of Gothard's rule-making carried to the ridiculous occurred at Gothard's Advanced Seminars in 1983 -- Gothard introduced sex regulations based upon Old Testament commands. Under the session titled "Six Purposes, Principles, and Keys To Fulfillment In The Marriage Relationship," he told married couples to abstain from physical relations: (1) During the wife's menstrual cycle; (2) Seven days after the cycles; (3) 40 days after the birth of a son; (4) 80 days after the birth of a daughter; and (5) The evening prior to worship.  
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20 Prominent Southern Baptist evangelist Mickey Bonner has also spoken for Gothard. The 8/97 Charisma said: "Although [Bonner] was Southern Baptist, he was widely accepted by charismatics because of his emphasis on spiritual gifts such as healing and deliverance." (Emphasis added.) Bonner collapsed and died 6/5/97 while preaching a sermon on humility and brokenness. He was addressing 16,000 people who had gathered in Knoxville, Tennessee for a home schooling conference sponsored by Bill Gothard. (Source: 8/15/97, Calvary Contender.)
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21 "... several men were trying to cast various evil spirits out of the young man. The spirits would leave and then return. ... I (Gothard) asked him if he would like to learn what bitterness had done to his soul. He eagerly listened as I drew a chart illustrating how his bitterness had given 'ground' to Satan and how from that 'ground,' Satan had built his strongholds of false conclusions and was tormenting him with depression, fear, anger, and other destructive emotions. ... After he understood how Satan had gained areas of jurisdictional authority in his soul when he 'let the sun go down on his wrath,' he took the following three Scriptural steps. These steps appropriate the victory that Christ already won for us with His death on the cross: (1) He confessed the sin of bitterness; (2) He claimed the blood of Christ; (3) He asked God to regain 'ground' in areas of his soul given to Satan. ... he finally uttered the words, and immediately his uncontrolled trembling stopped and a peace came over him. ... I explained that immorality will also give 'ground' to Satan and that on that 'ground,' Satan will build false ideas (strongholds) from which wrong conclusions are made. He acknowledged that there had been much immorality, so we repeated the steps in order to regain surrendered 'ground.' ... Great praise went up to God for this marvelous demonstration of His power. ... the next evening as attendees heard this new material on conquering bitterness and regaining 'ground.' Throughout the remainder of the week, others who applied these steps could be heard in the hallways exclaiming, 'I'm free! I'm free!' ...

"From his strongholds, Satan's tormentors invade other areas of the soul with unexplainable fears, mental confusion, deep depression, and uncontrollable anger or lust. No matter how these teenagers try to battle these destructive emotions, they find little success ... 'Bill Gothard told me that because I had received and accepted these thoughts over the years, Satan had taken a lot of "ground" in my soul. He asked me if I would like to pray and ask the Lord to take back the "ground" I had given to Satan. ... As soon as I said the words, my shaking stopped. I just felt relaxed, and I could see clearly. ... I felt a complete freedom! ... To this day, I have not dwelt on or considered suicide again. I am completely free from the hold Satan had on my life.' ... Any bitterness, greed, or guilt will darken your eyes and give Satan jurisdiction in your soul. ... A booklet describing this vital truth is available for you to order." (Emphasis added.) (Source: Ten Reasons for Alumni to Be Encouraged.)
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22 At one of Gothard's seminars, the story was told of a woman who was so spiritually sensitive that she fainted every time she heard a particular type of rock beat. This story repeated by multiple followers of IBLP. Another church member who was at this conference, heard the story, and was deeply impressed. For some time thereafter, every time she heard a song that had a stronger rhythm than she felt was appropriate, she would feel nauseated. (Apparently, she could not learn how to faint.) 

Gothard and his followers also frequently speak of the "light in the eyes" the young people under his ministry exhibit, provided they don't listen to contemporary music. A couple of Scriptures are occasionally twisted to support this. At one seminar, Gothard said essentially, "Jesus said the eye is the light of the body and let your light shine before men." In personal correspondence, Gothard denies he uses these verses to support the "light in the eyes" phenomena. However, he goes on to state, "The light in the eyes is an observable fact." (Source: Keith Gibson, "When Gothard Comes To Church.")
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23 Gothard's poor hermeneutic technique is THE ISSUE behind all other problems in his ministry. An individual or family who become heavily involved with IBLP must overlook a series of Scripture abuses. This lack of understanding regarding proper methods of interpretation leaves the follower open to other teachers who mishandle the Word. Many of the techniques used by Gothard are also used by cults and faith teachers. A family who becomes involved in Gothard's ministry is ill prepared to counter these false teachers. (Source: Keith Gibson, "When Gothard Comes To Church.")
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24 The same man referenced in Endnote #6 confronted Gothard on the subject of the many versions of the Bible that are accepted and used by the staff and by Gothard himself. Gothard said that he personally believed that the KJV is God's only Word in English, but would not make a stand. He said he encourages the use of the Phillip's translation and the memorization of it rather than the KJV. (Personal e-mail on file.)
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25 In an 8/97 personal letter from Gothard, he says he teaches that as a child matures to adulthood, "he passes from chain of command to chain of counsel. Scripture teaches that we should not forsake the counsel of our father and mother when they are old." This is playing word games. If one is subject to absolute parental authority as long as the parent is alive, what difference does it make whether it is the parent's chain of command authority or the parent's counsel to which the child/adult is subject?

Moreover, Gothard is a bit hypocritical in the "Authority" area. The man referenced in Endnotes #6 and #24, when resigning from IBLP and ATI, told Gothard he could not stay because of their differences in beliefs and because his father would not let him work for Gothard any longer. Gothard tried to convince him otherwise. The man told Gothard that he was going against his own authority teachings. Gothard told him to pay no attention to his father. (Personal e-mail on file.)
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26 Gothard emphasizes sins visited "upon the children unto the third and fourth generation" and neither emphasizes nor explains the pregnant phrase, "of them that hate me." It is also regrettable that he does not properly consider verse six: "But showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments." In an 8/97 personal letter from Gothard, he tries to make a distinction between the sins of the forefathers and the iniquities, claiming he teaches that the iniquities are passed on, not the sins. However, this is playing word games again. Moreover, the word translated iniquity in Exodus 20:4-6, as well as in many other places throughout the Old Testament, includes not only the tendency to sin, but also the sin, the guilt, the punishment, and the consequences. Gothard also says in his letter that, "in the same way they [parents] transfer to us physical features and health weakness, they can also pass on spiritual tendencies." This a false analogy between the spiritual and the physical/genetic.
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27 Gothard teaches that the new parents of an adopted child must research the sins of the "biological parents," confessing them and casting the consequences off the child. He says: "Causes of Conflicts -- Adopted children are affected by the sins of their natural parents, and these sins are usually very severe. ... Steps to Resolve Conflicts -- If the child is too young to understand, pray for the child. Confess your sins and acknowledge the sins of the natural parents. Ask God to rebuke Satan and free the child from any unbelief or rebellion from the lives of the parents. Pray in the name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ" ("Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend to Have More Conflicts," IBYC, 1982, pp. 1-2).
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Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 2/2004

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