This article is a continuation of “Mr. Gothard’s Sexual Rules,” a three-part series we ran last December. Mr. Gothard’s teachings on sex within marriage are not among the Institute in Basic Life Principles’ (IBLP) central doctrines. However, this section of the Advanced Seminar is an excellent example of how Mr. Gothard both views the Law and how he abuses Scripture. Both are very important to understanding Mr. Gothard’s overall teachings. The material quoted in this article is found in the Advanced Seminar Textbook starting around page 171.
How do we know when we are sowing to the flesh? This question is answered in amazing detail in the Old Testament Law (“…the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” Ps 19:8) We don’t keep the law in order to gain or maintain salvation, but we should apply the principles of the law to avoid sowing to the flesh and reaping corruption.
So, according to Mr. Gothard we don’t need to follow the law to become or to stay saved, but we do need to follow the law in order walk a successful Christian life. This is just another form of legalism. Of course, Gothard likes to misuse words just like he likes to misuse Scripture, so in order to avoid having the label “legalism” stick to his teachings, he insists that one of the common meanings of legalism isn’t really legalism. The dictionary of Bill Gothard is as full of fallacies as the bible of Bill Gothard.
And, not surprisingly, he finds room to throw in another abuse of Scripture. In order to support the idea that we are to follow the law, he refers to the concept of “sowing to the flesh”–a concept found in Gal 6:8. This is another technique used by Gothard–make reference to a familiar concept from Scripture but without giving the actual passage or its context. If the concept is flexible enough, then why not use it however one wishes? After all, it’s Scripture isn’t it? So, take the familiar Scriptural phrase, ignore its immediate context and then use it to support some unrelated point.
Mr. Gothard is certainly not the only Christian teacher to use this technique but he seems to take it further than most. Not only does he use phrases out of context, he often uses them to make them say the opposite of what they were meant to convey. Go to Galatians 6 and read the whole chapter. You will find that this passage has to do with NOT following the law. After Paul introduces the idea of not sowing to the flesh in verse 8, he then uses this to segue into a discussion of those who seek to make a “good showing in the flesh” and to “boast in the flesh.” How do they seek to do this? By compelling believers to be circumcised–that is, to follow the stipulations of the law. According to Paul, seeking to follow the stipulations of the law is “glorying in the flesh.”
So, in Gothard’s mind, the danger of sowing to the flesh is a reason to follow the law, but in Paul’s mind it’s a reason to NOT follow the law. Gothard’s conclusion is that there is spiritual benefit in following the law. Paul’s conclusion is that there is no spiritual benefit in following the stipulations of the law.
The laws and commandments throughout Scripture constitute a single unity. In light of this concept, Scripture explains, “whosoever shall offend in one point, he is guilty of all”
(Jam 2:10). The claim that the Old Testament Law has no application for us today not only violates the unity of Scripture, but also the clear instruction of II Tim 3:16-17.
Furthermore, the entire law is summed up by Christ in two commands: “…you should love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…. thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matt 22:37-39
A person may think he is a loving partner by things he says or does, but God’s law is much more precise and accurate in defining what is loving and unloving.
OK…the logic here is so convoluted that it would be impractical to deal with it in detail in this article. Instead, let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that Gothard’s reasoning is correct. After all, we would all agree that we should follow the essence of the law–to love God with our whole being and our neighbor as our self. Let’s also assume that Gothard is right when he says that the Old Testament (OT) law defines how to do this, and that therefore we should follow the stipulations of the OT law in order to fulfill its essence. Let’s assume all this is true and accurate.
So, if all this is true…why doesn’t Mr. Gothard himself follow the whole of the OT law? Why does he cherry pick the parts he wants and leave out the others? Why does he regularly ignore the fact that offending in one part is breaking the whole of the law? Either his teaching is correct here and he is in blatant violation of his own reasoning, or else the reasoning is false and this is just another example of his blatant twisting of Scripture. After all, as Mr. Gothard points out, the law constitutes a single unity and if you break one part you are guilty of breaking it all. If this is true, then this would have to lead to the conclusion that if you are going to follow the rules about abstinence during menstruation, then you should follow the laws about clean and unclean foods. If breaking the law in one part means you break it all, then it does no good to keep the laws on abstinence during menstruation yet eat pork.
How is “uncleanness” related to the menstrual cycle?
Lev 15:19-20 “If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything that she lies on during her impurity shall be unclean; also everything that she sits on shall be unclean.”
As we saw in the earlier articles on Gothard’s sexual rules, Mr. Gothard teaches that couples should refrain from intercourse two weeks out of each month. Here we see that he is tying this idea to the concept of not “sowing to the flesh” and goes so far as to claim that failing to follow this practice is unloving. And, Mr. Gothard (rightly) points out that failing to keep one part of the law is to be guilty of breaking it all. However, when we more closely examine this set of assertions it becomes apparent that Mr. Gothard can’t even keep one little part of the law much less the whole of it. Notice that in the verse Mr. Gothard quotes, the law says a menstruating woman is to be set apart. That whatever she touches, lies or sits on is unclean. Yet instead of teaching that a menstruating woman should be set apart and that everything she touches at all is to be treated as unclean, Mr. Gothard ignores all this and teaches only that a couple should not have sexual intercourse during this time.
Oh, and let’s include the next few verses as well…
“22 And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. 23 If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. 24 And if any man lies with her at all, so that her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.”
Oh wow, not only is what she touches, lies or sits on unclean, but if someone else touches one of those things they become unclean as well.
Given all this uncleanness, why does Gothard stop with merely not having sex with your wife during the period? After all, as Mr. Gothard points out, the law is single unity and breaking one part means you break it all. If uncleanness is the issue, then shouldn’t the husband refrain from even hugging his wife or sleeping in the same bed as her during that time? Or, closer to home for single Mr. Gothard, shouldn’t he prevent women who work in the IBLP offices from being around others during their time of uncleanness? Why restrict the issue of uncleanness to sexual intercourse when Scripture makes it clear that it involves so much else?
If breaking one part of the law is to be guilty of it all, then what good does it do to refrain from sex for two weeks out of the month if you ignore every other restriction the law requires for menstruating women? Clearly it does no good at all to keep some yet not all. Mr. Gothard is either twisting Scripture or is teaching a hypocritical keeping of the law.
What does the New Testament say about uncleanness?
Rom 1:24; Rom 6:19; II Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; I Thes 4:7
I find it interesting that he failed to include one of the classic passages on uncleanness in the New Testament (NT). I figured any discussion of uncleanness in the NT would start with Acts 10:10-16: “But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’”
Or maybe Mark 7:15: “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.”
I guess these verses don’t support his thesis.
But go ahead and read the verses Mr. Gothard references yourself. Notice that Gothard places having sex with your wife during her period on the same level as things like homosexuality, unrestrained lust, fornication, adultery, and idolatry. Furthermore, notice that Gothard is using the OT law to define what Paul means when he refers to uncleanness in the NT. So if you are unclean by the OT law, then by Mr. Gothard’s reasoning you are in violation of these NT verses on uncleanness. Yet Paul makes no mention of the major things that would make someone unclean under the OT law. And here is the kicker–According to Lev 15, a woman is unclean by the simple fact of menstruating. So, Gothard wants verses in the NT which condemn uncleanness to be seen as condemnations of having sex with your menstruating wife. He ignores the fact that by his same logic, these verses would condemn the wife for menstruating in the first place!
Not to mention that, by this logic, having any contact with menstruating women at all is “condemned” by these NT verses! So if Mr. Gothard’s teachings about the law are correct, then shaking hands with a menstruating woman is equivalent to adultery and idolatry.
I also want to point out to you that Mr. Gothard doesn’t go nearly far enough. The law is a single unit, right? Uncleanness is uncleanness, right? And uncleanness is condemned in the NT, right? So why does Mr. Gothard not teach the whole truth of the matter? Notice Lev 15:16–having sex at all makes one unclean! If Mr. Gothard is using the NT verses and OT laws on uncleanness to forbid sex during menstruation, why doesn’t he remain consistent and simply forbid sex altogether?
Or maybe he hopes no one will notice just how inconsistent his teaching is and how badly it twists Scripture if his logic remains vague and convoluted enough…
And he gets by with it.
What’s even more amazing is that some will read this analysis and still excuse Gothard and hold him up as a good teacher of Godly principles!!
Guilt comes by calling God’s blessings “curses” and God’s curse “a blessing.”
Throughout Scripture, God consistently teaches us that children are His blessing. He also cursed several women by closing their wombs.
“Lo, Children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” (Ps 127:3)
When God brought judgment upon Abimelech and his household, He closed up the wombs of all the women (see Judges 20:18).
God assigns a special woe to those who reverse His pronouncements. A man and wife who call that which God loves “evil” receive to themselves a special woe: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
Children are good, not evil; they bring light into a home, not darkness; they are a sweet experience, not a bitter one. The woe continues upon “…them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:21)
Some of the woes include the physical, psychological, and spiritual destruction of modern birth control methods.
So by Gothard’s reasoning, whatever prevents a blessing is equivalent to considering it a curse–whatever prevents a good is equivalent to considering it an evil. This is the core of Gothard’s reasoning. Without this hidden assumption his whole teaching on birth control falls apart. If he were to allow that one might prevent a blessing for a time without considering it a curse, then he would have to allow that periodic and temporary use of birth control is perfectly acceptable. But he isn’t even willing to bend his reasoning to that small extent. To him, birth control is preventing a blessing and therefore birth control is equivalent to considering that blessing a curse.
I could give a detailed reasoning why this is fallacious on so many levels. But I won’t. It’s boring. It’s much more fun to turn his own reasoning back on him. So without any more ado, I now present a basic principle which Gothard somehow missed…
Guilt comes by calling God’s blessings “curses” and God’s curse “a blessing.”
Throughout Scripture, God consistently teaches us that marriage and sex is His blessing. He also cursed several men by denying them wives.
“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.“ Proverbs 18:22
“Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” Prov 5:18,19
When God brought judgement on the tribe of Benjamin, he denied them wives. Judges 21:1,2
God assigns a special woe to those who reverse His pronouncements. A man who calls that which God loves “evil” receive to themselves a special woe: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20
Marriage and sex are good, not evil; they bring light into a home, not darkness; they are a sweet experience, not a bitter one. The woe continues upon “…them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!” Isaiah 5:21
Some of the woes include the physical, psychological, and spiritual destruction of remaining single…
Even to those who promote Gothard’s principles as scripturally sound should notice that he is very inconsistent in his own application of them.
Distinguish between legalism and Godly living.
1 Legalism is trying to earn salvation–Eph 2:8-9
2 Legalism is trying to live the Christian life with the energy of the soul–Rom 7:15
3 Legalism is following ‘the letter’ not ‘the spirit’–II Cor 3:6
And, the one definition of legalism that Gothard leaves out…
4. Legalism is attempting to follow the law after one has already come to Christ in faith–Gal 3
Gothard refuses to accept one of the most common meanings of the term–the meaning dealt with at length by Paul. The meaning which causes Paul to be so vehement in his attack on those who told believers they needed the law to be “complete.”
Gothard refuses to accept what nearly every other theologian does accept (barring Seventh Day Adventists). Gothard MUST restrict the meaning of this word…or else he has to accept the label of legalist. Most other legalists try to prove how they aren’t really legalists because they aren’t really teaching others to follow the law (it’s just about health benefits, etc.). Gothard tells us blatantly to follow the law and then tries to escape the label of legalist by rewriting the most commonly accepted meaning.
But again, let’s assume that Mr. Gothard is correct in his definitions of legalism and that his teachings are really all about holy living. It still raises the question of why Mr. Gothard is so inconsistent in his application of the law to believers’ lives. Mr. Gothard requires other believers to follow some particular stipulation of the law yet fails to keep the law himself. He points out that the law is a single unit and breaking one part is to be guilty of breaking it all, yet he cherry-picks some aspects of the law while ignoring others.