On IBLP’s website, under “What we do” it says, “The Institute in Basic Life Principles was established for the purpose of introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ, and is dedicated to giving clear instruction and training on how to find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture.”
The underlined part of this purpose statement explains one of the main reasons I reject Bill Gothard’s ministry… it promotes humanism.
What? Gothard just said that his ministry was established for the purpose of introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ and I accuse him of humanism? That’s absurd, right?
Well, it would be if he ended his statement there and if his ministry was really all about introducing people to the Jesus of the Bible, but the statement didn’t stop there (and whether or not his ministry presents a Biblical Gospel is certainly worth looking into). It’s the statement about being dedicated to giving clear instruction and training on how to find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture that causes me to cry “humanism.”
Humanism is defined as “a doctrine, attitude or way of life that centers on human interests or values.” This is at the core of why I reject IBLP.
Not that I think anything that is about human interests or ways of life is automatically “bad.” There are good things, Christian things, that are about human interests. That’s not at the core of this “humanism” of which I find IBLP to be guilty, but rather because I believe that Gothard teaches a success gospel that is centered on man rather than Christ.
Let’s look at some examples:
- Scripture says that we are saved by grace through faith. Gothard defines faith as, “Visualizing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it.” Based on his definition, faith is something I do.
- He defines grace as “the desire and ability to do God’s will” and teaches that it can be gained by humbling myself. Grace starts in me.
- If we insert Gothard’s definitions into Ephesians 2:7, it says, “By the desire and ability to do God’s will (that you earn through humbling yourself) and through visualizing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it you are saved.”
Sound like a man-centered gospel?
How about some other examples:
What is the purpose of the law? Galatians 3:24 says, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” What does Gothard say? Well, that’s a loaded question. Gothard really likes the Mosaic law. He teaches from it a lot. It is where he gets many of his principles that are supposed to give success. For example, he spends pages and pages of his Advanced Seminar textbook giving principles of marriage based on the Old Testament laws of cleanliness. And God’s reasons for those laws, according to Gothard? He gave these rules “to the nation of Israel so that they could be healthier, wealthier, and wiser than any other nation.” Prosperity gospel? Humanism?
This idea that the law was given to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise is seen throughout Gothard’s teachings. At the Basic Seminar, I remember being told that fasting is for our physical benefit. He said that when God sent manna in the wilderness, His reason for not sending it on the Sabbath was to encourage fasting. The truth is that God did an extra miracle to make a provision for eating manna on the Sabbath without breaking the Sabbath with work, but Gothard ignores that and teaches that people would do good by fasting on Sunday.
He teaches that we should meditate on Scripture so that we will have success. He goes so far as to state that this success will cause you to have higher grades. You can see this promoted on the IBLP website. One of the Board Members, Dr. Billy Boring, Jr., has this testimony. “As a medical student at the University of Texas Medical School, Billy attended a Basic Seminar, where he was challenged to begin meditating on God’s Word. As he did so, his grades began to climb.” Notice the cause and effect? Meditate on Scripture = higher grades.
Yes, Joshua 1:7 does say that success will be the result of meditating on Scripture. But is Biblical success higher grades in medical school? Is God really promising us success in this world? If I meditate on Scripture, will every business venture I begin automatically succeed? Isn’t this another version of the Prosperity Gospel? Do you need more examples?
I don’t know how many times during my years in AT I I heard that we are to do good works in such a way that “God gets the glory, your authorities get the credit, and you get the eternal reward.” Sounds good. But Scripture says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good words and glorify your Father in heaven.” Hmmm … God’s Word says to do good works in a way that God gets the glory. Period. See the subtle difference? The message of Scripture is that everything is for God’s glory. Everything.
The message of Scripture isn’t about how to find hidden principles that give man success. And that’s why I find Gothard’s system full of humanism. It’s why I reject it.
I want to quote Matt Chandler in The Explicit Gospel to show what I mean.
- “There are essentially two ways to view the Scriptures. One way is to view them primarily as a guidebook for our daily living. We have questions. Surely the Bible is a reliable reference book. So we ask, should we drink alcohol? Well, let’s find that in the Bible. We ask, should I go see this movie or not? And we look up some texts about not eating meat sacrificed to idols and end up slightly more confused but feeling religious, at least. Suddenly we’ve turned the Bible in our Magic 8-ball. Of course, we don’t call it that. We call it things like ‘the road map of life’.”
- “Now, does the Bible contain a wealth of wisdom for practical, daily living? Yes, absolutely. Is it going to specifically answer every question you’ve got? Not by a long shot. And on top of that, answering our practical questions isn’t the point of the Bible …”
- “Here’s my point: what if the Bible isn’t about us at all? What if we aren’t the story of God’s revelation?”
- “The Bible definitely issues commands for us to obey and makes demands for our submission. But, in the end, reading the Bible as the Daily Manual for My Life is the deficient way of the basic ways available to us. We can read is as a reference book about us. Or we can see that the Bible is a book about God. To paraphrase Herbert Lockyer, the Bible is for us, but it’s not about us.”
That is how Gothard hurt me personally. That is why I reject his teachings. He gave me a theology that had me as the center of the Bible. He made the Bible about me. His “hidden” meanings and reasons and principles of Scripture make it about me and temporal success for man becomes the message of the Bible. In all of that success and all of the principles, I lost the centrality of Jesus. So, regardless of what good there might be, his teachings cost me Jesus. That’s why I reject him. And that’s why I say it’s humanism.