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Unfortunately, instead of reducing the hurt and complexity, Gothard actively worked to take advantage of the confusion. He had regularly required staff to sign loyalty oaths and to turn over their meeting notes to him as a method of controlling information. Now, over a period of numerous years, he carefully taught new concepts to his staff and employees—with the goal of blocking truthful reports—and extended his teachings nationwide through seminars and alumni booklets. We have exposed the fallacy of the following teachings: In this article, we explore: “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” Ephesians 5:11 “The sins of some men are quite evident going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.” 1 Timothy 5:24–25
Unfortunately, instead of reducing the hurt and complexity, Gothard actively worked to take advantage of the confusion. He had regularly required staff to sign loyalty oaths and to turn over their meeting notes to him as a method of controlling information. Now, over a period of numerous years, he carefully taught new concepts to his staff and employees—with the goal of blocking truthful reports—and extended his teachings nationwide through seminars and alumni booklets.
We have exposed the fallacy of the following teachings:
In this article, we explore:
“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
“The sins of some men are quite evident going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.” 1 Timothy 5:24–25
Not taking up an offense
As the destructive patterns of Bill Gothard’s alleged indiscretions continue to be told, our comment threads have been hit steadily with various forms of the same question: “Why haven’t these stories been told sooner? If people witnessed these behaviors, why didn’t they speak out?”
One oft-quoted—but fallacious—teaching within the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) community is that of “not taking up an offense.” The phrase was introduced in Session 7 of the Basic Seminar as one of the five causes of persistent bitterness. In short, this teaching suggests that it is wrong to take up someone else’s issue as our own; the reasoning is that God gives grace for us to handle our own personal injustice but does not promise to give grace to us if we are a ‘bystander’ to the injustice.
In the seminar, Gothard says, “If somebody would offend me, then God would give me the grace along with the offense to respond to it.” Here he references several truths that allude to biblical promises. Yes, God does indeed give grace to those who are victims of injustice or offense, providing his presence, his wisdom, and his care. But in the next sentence Gothard astoundingly says, “If somebody, though, on the sideline sees me hurt and they take up an offense and become bitter at the one who offended me… years later they’re still bitter, because they didn’t get any grace. God gave grace to the one who was offended, but God doesn’t give any grace to the sideliners—those who take up offenses for others.”
Consider that bold statement for a moment and ponder the absolute lack of scriptural warrant for it. Gothard says with all the confidence of assumed fact that if you take up the cause of someone who is offended or wronged, and take it as your own cause, God will not give you grace for that endeavor.
His only scriptural reference for the entire concept of “not taking up offenses” is Psalm 15:3. Gothard says in the Basic Seminar, “The Scripture tells us in Psalm 15:3 that if you don’t do these things, you’ll never fall. And there’s only a few things. So they’re very, very important. One of those is if you don’t take up an offense against somebody else.”
Look at Psalm 15:3 closely. In the King James Version, it reads, “He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.” The NIV reads, “whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others.” The ESV and NAS use the phrase “nor takes up a reproach against his friend.” In context, however you translate it, is this verse really talking about a bystander taking up someone else’s cause?
Not according to any commentary we can put our hands on. Understanding parallelism in Hebrew poetry, these couplets repeat one another with the second slightly enhancing the first. After addressing righteousness (v. 2 a–b) and truthful speech (v. 2c–3a), the Psalmist adds a couplet about how we treat our friends. The first phrase of the couplet sets up the second, and the second interprets the first. Thus “taking up an offense” (v. 3b) is to be understood in the line-of-thinking of “doing no wrong to a neighbor” (v. 3c). Its purpose is to challenge us to act rightly towards our friends and neighbors. The verse is not about refraining from inserting ourselves into someone else’s issue. And it certainly provides no support for the concept that grace will not be provided for a bystander who takes up a cause.
It’s extremely difficult to scripturally support the assertions Gothard makes about “taking up offenses,” especially with one misapplied verse. More positively, it’s actually easy to build a case for the exact opposite of Gothard’s teaching. When we see a perceived injustice against someone, are we in any sense encouraged or even commanded to take up that cause on their behalf? Consider these verses:“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17; see also Isaiah 58:5–12) “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9; see also Psalm 72:4)
In fact, God “calls out” his people at various times for their inaction when faced with visible injustice; Ezekiel 34:3–4, for instance, makes clear that it is heinously irresponsible for us to ignore the needs of the oppressed or wronged around us. And Philippians 2:3–4 challenges a local first-century church—and us—to rank the needs we see around us above our own.
Few would argue the exhortations of these verses. And yet a misleading interpretation of one phrase in one verse of one psalm has effectively encouraged many to remain silent in the face of significant warning signs. Gothard’s teaching on this concept has placed a spiritualized “gag order”” on many who saw improprieties within his own organization but believed it was not their place to champion the cause.
Worse yet, all of this was taught within a context of “avoiding bitterness.” The teaching goes so far as to label as “bitter” any who might see something improper and decide to speak up. In the seminar Gothard states, “Some of the most bitter people that I have met are those who were not offended, but who have taken up offenses for other people. They’re the ones who are taking up causes, and they don’t have any grace to deal with it.” On the contrary, we would point out that many Bible characters who were the least “bitter” were the ones who took up causes for others, following Christ himself as their example.
In short, in an environment where many today are saying “the warning signs were there” or “I’ve seen enough in my own experiences with the Institute to believe that the allegations are true,” adherents were taught not to speak up on behalf of others or risk being dismissed as bitter for choosing to take a stand. A teaching which has no basis in Scripture has become a powerful tool to spiritually abuse God’s flock while providing protection and cover for sin.
 You’ll find the discussion in Session 7 at the 11:20 mark in the Basic Seminar video recording.
 The word here translated ‘neighbor’ is rea` and is used of ‘somebody with whom one frequently associates.’ (Tremper Longman, Psalms. EBC, p. 183)
 In some settings, Proverbs 3:30 has also been invoked as a proof text. It states that we should not “strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm.” But “the verse does not also say that we should ignore strife when there is a notable cause, nor does it say that we should not be concerned with one another. It does not instruct us to ignore harm that is done to others, or that we should ignore what goes on around us. Our love for one another calls for justice to be established…” From this article by Under Much Grace.