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Using this verse in a manner not unlike the Jehovah’s Witness movement, Gothard teaches that the kingdom of heaven operates much like the Roman Empire. High-powered individuals at the top require those under them to unquestioningly conform. Mr. Gothard supports the teaching that parents are placed above children with no accountability except that of God. The problem is, these parents can interpret literally anything as being a directive of God!
Bill Gothard’s view of authority is the groundwork for many of his other teachings. This is a BIG DEAL. I Samuel 15:23 says that “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” Gothard takes this Scripture a step further and teaches that rebellion equals witchcraft. He uses this to “prove” that when we are out from under an umbrella of authority (or, umbrella of protection) we are subject to satanic attack. My old red Basic Seminar textbook states that we will be “subject to unnecessary temptations that are too strong to overcome.” Basically, Gothard is teaching that all rebellion is evil and that “all submission is righteous.” This sounds good and spiritual enough, but this Scripture (like many others) has been misused. As with his other principles, Bill grasps to prove a point. But I remind you, Christian society was so ready and relieved for an answer to the tumult of the 60’s that parents and grandparents and youth directors overlooked Bill’s repeated abuse of Scripture. Why couldn’t Bill just use Paul’s teaching on authority in I Romans 13:3-4 and Genesis 9 to point out the social ramifications of rebellion? Why the need to add a spiritual/mystical twist?
Another twisting of scripture in the area of authority is Luke 2:48-2, the passage where young Jesus amazed the elders with his wisdom. Gothard teaches that Jesus struggled with whether to obey His parents or to “be about His Father’s business,’ and that He decided on the latter. If you read the passage at face value, it actually illustrates Jesus’ recognition of His identity as the Savior, the Son of God. But Gothard twists it to display an internal conflict of whether or not to obey the parental authority of his earthly parents. WRONG! The inner conflict was in Joseph and Mary, not Jesus! (Read it. They lost their kid!!!) Once again, slight-of-hand at work. The work of an illusionist. If Jesus was truly inwardly conflicted, He displayed rebellion by staying back in the temple, but we know Jesus was sinless. Gothard invented a meaning that opposes the passage’s point –that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. In other areas of the Bible, we are told that Jesus was completely without sin. So, you do the math.
Gothard teaches that obedience to leaders must happen without question. Conformity is key. Uniformity is mistaken for unity. Legalism nixes any chance for individuality and independent thinking. In such an environment, when Bill Gothard goes off on one of his many crazy ideas and you’re tempted to laugh at the preposterous nature (e.g. cabbage patch dolls prevent pregnancy), you look around and see the hundreds of serious nodding heads. You then begin to question your own lack of reason because of the kind of conditioning you receive under a totalitarian IBLP. I have a friend who was employed by IBLP for several years. One day he and his wife were told by Bill Gothard that he was impressed by God that he will live until he’s about 120 years old. My friend laughed at the suggestion and was fired immediately. I’ve heard Bill’s gripping influence on people referred to as the “power of persona”. Mr. Gothard presents himself really well. He appears sincere, humble, gracious, wise, and compassionate. His presentation and the atmosphere that follows him makes it very difficult to identify and point out the heresy.
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