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Dear Recovering Grace Reader,
One of our primary goals at Recovering Grace is to provide an avenue for healing to those who have been affected by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). At times we approach this goal by sharing testimonies of those who have found freedom in Christ, or by sharing helpful insights for living the Christian life the way Jesus intended. At other times we take a more painful approach as we share stories of the negative results of Gothard’s teachings and activities. We’ve found both types of stories to be extremely helpful to people who are in the various stages of coming out of legalism–whether they are still entrapped, seeking the truth for the first time, or searching for ways to recover.
Sometimes when we expose problems with IBLP and ATI, people question why Recovering Grace does not follow the principles found in Matthew 18 and approach Bill Gothard personally. We absolutely affirm that Matthew 18, as a means of seeking personal reconciliation between two believers, is an essential and biblical model. Because of this, we would exhort all who write or post on our site to take seriously this positive step of personally confronting someone who has ‘sinned against you’ (v. 15), creating the opportunity to work out personal injury in conversation. If the person refuses to listen, then bring one or two people along with you as a second attempt. If they still refuse to listen, it becomes a matter to bring before the local church. If this last effort is still refused, the church is to consider that person an “outsider,” or someone who is unsaved (a “tax collector” or “pagan”).
All that being said, Recovering Grace does not believe our issues with Bill Gothard are the type that Christ is speaking to in this passage. Our issues are primarily doctrinal, as they deal with what we believe to be faulty interpretations of Scripture–and the effects of such–rather than personal offenses by Bill Gothard against us. As any person who has spent time browsing our site will notice, we firmly believe that Gothard teaches a definition of grace and a view of sanctification that misses the heart of the gospel and of the New Testament. This leads to many negative consequences of which we seek to warn others.
We believe that there are several biblical precedents for addressing doctrinal and behavioral concerns in a public forum. Indeed, Paul publicly called out several individuals without any evidence of prior face-to-face meetings, including Demas, Hymenaeus and Philetus, and Hymenaeus and Alexander. Paul publicly called out Peter “to his face” before an assembly of apostles and church leaders. In fact, the impetus for many of Paul’s epistles came from situations of doctrinal misapplication or moral failure. Paul uses the public forum of his epistles to admonish those at fault rather than following the steps of Matthew 18 (see, for instance, Gal. 1:6-7, 1 Cor. 5:1-2, Php. 4:2). In each of these examples, Paul is addressing matters that concern the peace and purity of the church rather than personal affronts. We believe the issues addressed on our website are mostly of this broader scope, and while the illustrations may at times include stories of personal injury, they are included to point to a far more systemic problem which is not solved merely by one person forgiving another.
Another reason we do not believe our mission falls under the principles of Matthew 18 is that IBLP and ATI are public, international ministries; therefore, these unresolved issues should be addressed publicly rather than privately. We strongly feel a moral obligation to warn others in both the Christian community and the general public, so that they might avoid needless pain and damage that comes from embracing a lifestyle of works-based sanctification.
The ATI program has been used by thousands of homeschooling families for nearly three decades, and the teachings are largely a matter of public record. Thus, these are not issues of personal offense between Bill Gothard and specific individuals, but rather Bill Gothard and the general public. And as previous attempts have shown, personal meetings with Bill Gothard only serve to keep the concerns out of public view, but actually do nothing to help those who have suffered or warn those who are thinking of immersing their families in this program.
Bill Gothard has been confronted about numerous issues in the past by the IBLP board and, in several cases, by individuals who were offended. Instead of confessing and repenting, he has strong-armed those who questioned him. He has proven that he is not in submission to his board, nor does it appear that he is in submission to any local church or pastor (other than in theory only). Therefore, by his own actions, he himself has precluded the possibility of following Matthew 18, even if it did apply situationally.
No church or organization is perfect, and people will be hurt in the course of normal life–we understand this. But in the words of Johnson and Van Vonderen, “The difference between an abusive and a non-abusive system is that while hurtful behaviors might happen in both, it is not permissible to talk about problems, hurts and abuses in the abusive system. Hence, there is no healing and restoration after the wound has occurred, and the victim is made to feel at fault for questioning and pointing out the problem.” (The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, 1991, p. 32) In authoritarian systems like IBLP, Matthew 18 can be wrongly used by those in power as a tool to coerce silence, rather than as a map to reconciliation.
Although Bill Gothard has repeatedly and habitually acted in bad faith towards those under his authority, our goal is honestly not to hurt or attack him out of revenge. Our call to him is for repentance and restoration with his Heavenly Father, his Christian brothers and sisters, and even those who have left the faith as a result of his system. God cares for all of us, victim and perpetrator alike. We believe with all of our hearts that His grace is able to bring about restoration, forgiveness, and healing in even the most difficult situations.
The RG leadership team
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