“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” ― Noam Chomsky
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Many people over the years have expressed concern with the way Bill Gothard misuses Scripture—not to mention basic logic—in his attempts to validate his dogmatic pseudo-spiritual requirements for “successful” living. A friend of mine recently shared a document (pictured) obtained while attending an IBLP (Institute in Basic Life Principles) conference on effective communication. In this document, Bill Gothard argues that only a “carnally minded” individual would use rock music in the local church. One can see Bill’s total disregard for basic biblical hermeneutics, and how he creates a false logical argument in which he is correct and those who differ are in sin.
A Christian teenager who enjoys Christian rock music asked the following question:
“Let’s suppose that Christian rock music would cause only a few to be damaged, but would cause many more to grow in their worship of God. Would it be wrong in this case?”
Right off the bat, there is a presupposition that “Christian rock music” (I hate the term because it’s so general as to not allow for song-by-song or genre-by-genre analyses) can cause people to be damaged. I’ve addressed this issue specifically in another Recovering Grace article. Basically, after spending seven years in graduate school studying this issue, I do not believe there is any evidence (scientific, musical, or otherwise) that a style of music can “damage” someone. Nor do I believe that a style can “cause” someone to grow in their worship. Music CAN be an effective tool for worship and it can also be an effective tool to communicate sinful ideas, but there is no evidence that a specific style can cause these things to happen.
Jesus often exposed the wrong logic of an argument by giving an analogy. Let’s suppose that a restaurant had only one in every ten customers get food poisoning, but the majority were greatly benefited by the food.
There isn’t anything wrong with using analogies to make a point. However, in an attempt to spiritualize things, Gothard invokes the name of Christ. This gives the subtle impression that since Jesus’ words were truth, then Gothard’s must be as well. And while we certainly can glean rhetorical insights from the teaching methods of Christ, His use of analogies to present truth does not necessarily guarantee the truthfulness of our use of analogies.
What would the law of man require?
Even though the majority of the customers were benefited by the food, the health department would close down the restaurant until the cause of food poisoning was identified and removed.
Okay, but in our analogy we still haven’t proven that there was “food poisoning” (damage from rock music) to begin with.
What would the law of God require?
The law of God is summarized in the law of love which states: “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died… It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, or any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Romans 14:15, 21)
This is a classic Gothard tactic right here. He takes two verses (that are six verses apart) and combines them with ellipses. Now, before we look at the quoted passage, think with me for just a moment. Is the law of God truly summarized in Romans 14 as Bill suggests? Not according to Jesus. In Matthew 22, He was directly asked what was the most important commandment, to which He replied that we are to love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Christ then states that the entire law of God hangs upon those two commands. Not Romans 14.
Now, it could possibly be argued that Bill is stating that Christians should avoid rock music out of love for their neighbors. And that would be a valid point if not for the fact that music styles cannot cause one to sin, and if not for the fact that the main point of Romans 14 counteracts Bill’s argument. Romans 14 is where Paul addresses the “meat offered to idols” issue. Paul’s judgment is that there is nothing wrong with eating the meat, but that each of us must walk in faith before God and with charity toward our fellow Christians. So, if after consideration of Scripture and the feelings of the church body, a local church decides to utilize contemporary music in its services, then there is nothing wrong with that according to Paul’s teaching in this passage.
The responsibility of pastors when even one is damaged:
“How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray” (Matthew 18:12-13).
“Woe be to the shepherds… The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed of that which was sick, neither have you down to that which was broken, neither have you brought again that which was driven away, neither have you sought that which was lost” (Ezekiel 34:1–4)
Eisegesis alert. Bill has cherry-picked two passages unrelated to the issue at hand to supposedly support his argument. The Matthew 18 parable speaks of Christ’s desperate love for His children. It speaks nothing of a pastor’s role as shepherd or of rock music. The Ezekiel passage is even further off target. Church pastors didn’t exist in the Old Testament, so it can’t be referring to them. It’s actually a prophetic passage aimed at Israel’s community leaders, and it has nothing to do with pastors or rock music.
The serious warning about offending just one believer:
“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were for better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
This passage is quite powerful. Christians have an important duty to do everything within our power to not cause a fellow believer to sin. If using contemporary music in the local church could cause someone to fall away from Christ, then Bill would have an argument here. But it can’t. And he doesn’t. Don’t let him fool you.
Those who reject this teaching are carnally minded:
“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6–8).
This is Bill’s way of saying, “either you agree with me, or you are a carnal Christian.” But what about all of the “spiritually minded” people who have no problem with contemporary music in the local church? Let’s take a closer look at what this whole “spiritually/carnally minded” thing actually means. One verse prior to Gothard’s excerpt, Paul writes that those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh and those that live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Rejecting Gothard’s teaching on rock music doesn’t make one carnally minded; walking according to the flesh does. Unfortunately, many have been lured into bondage by Gothard’s scriptural sleight-of-hand, including myself once upon a time.
You know though, the interesting thing is that I don’t really believe Gothard believes what he wrote in this document. Sure, I think he believes that rock music is sinful and should be kept out of the local church. But he would never use this kind of thought process to examine his own ministry. Imagine if the first paragraph of the document had said:
“A Christian teenager who enjoys IBLP, ATI, and the teachings of Bill Gothard asked the following question:
“Let’s suppose that Bill Gothard’s teachings would cause only a few to be damaged, but would cause many more to grow in their worship of God. Would it be wrong in this case?”
Now, consider the fact that this very website serves as a testimony of THOUSANDS of damaged believers. Hmm…