The Trouble with Bubbles

8 August 2013, 06:00



“Have you ever seen a bubble?Large-Bubble-Floats-Over-Lake
They’re simple things to see.
And if they’re not in trouble, they’re round as they can be.
But if you try to change their shape to make them tall or make them flat,
there soon won’t be a bubble where the troubled bubble’s at.
It really doesn’t matter if you think you’re a star.
Or if you think a square is really the shape you are.
For in the world of bubbles, all of the ones you’ll find are
round and round and round and round….
The way that God designed.”

I’ll admit it. I liked The Bubble Song when we went to Children’s Institute functions and the other children and I were herded around to learn character qualities and principles from Advanced Training Institute (ATI) students. The Bubble Song was a fun song to sing and I got a kick out of seeing how many times we could say “round” before I ran out of breath!

That being said, I didn’t like the message of The Bubble Song so much. The Bubble Song was taught in connection with the teachings on the principle of design, one of the seven universal non-option principles espoused by Bill Gothard as part of the Basic Seminar. To a child, the takeaway was that we were stuck with whatever our lives looked like. Our parents and siblings, our age order, our physical features, when in history we were born, and generally every other detail about our lives. I considered myself lucky in that I actually liked my parents and my siblings (even though sometimes I was embarrassed to admit there were ONLY three of us). And most of the time I didn’t mind being the youngest child in my family.

Instead, the idea about our physical features was what made me squirm. I wondered whether I was evil because sometimes I wished I was prettier or taller. Or fantasized about what it might be like to have been a pioneer or a medieval princess dancing at balls and riding horses. (On a side note, ATI actually taught that girls who want horses are rebellious, which made no sense to me.)

The Bubble Song came to mind the other day while I was helping to clean a local church, and I tried to fend off the memories the song triggered. I found myself annoyed with the catchy tune and the memories it stirred up. I shared the lyrics with a non-ATI friend, and then it struck me, “What’s wrong with being a star?”

Is that really a message we want to give to our children? That being stellar is some sort of sin?

“Have you ever seen a child?
They’re simple things to see.
And if they’re not in trouble, they’re (normal) as they can be.
But if you try to change their shape to make them tall or make them flat,
there soon won’t be a child where the troubled child’s at.
My precious daughter or son, it really doesn’t matter if you think you’re a star.
Or if you think a square is really the shape you are.
For in the world of children, all of the ones you’ll find are
normal, normal, normal, normal
The way that God designed.”

Do we really want to teach our kids, “God designed you to look, act, talk, and feel just like everyone else and if you try to do anything differently or make yourself unique, you will cease to exist”?

If I am honest, that’s not a message I want to give to my children. I want to tell them, “You are special and unique! God has gifts he created just for you and he’s put them into you so you can do wonderful things. You have a place in the world that no one else can fill. You have a special calling by God who loves you and made you different and unique from everyone else that has ever walked this planet,” rather than the message I sang growing up, twirling my finger in the air which essentially was, “Conform or be destroyed.”

All articles on this site reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of other Recovering Grace contributors or the leadership of the site. Students who have survived Gothardism tend to end up at a wide variety of places on the spiritual and theological spectrum, thus the diversity of opinions expressed on this website reflects that. For our official statement of beliefs, click here.


  1. Gracekissed August 8, 2013 Reply

    I have never heard that song before (non-ATI background), but really, it's quite disturbing. I totally agree with you. *Pop*? Really? That's a creepy way of telling a kid that they're ok exactly the way

    • Gracekissed August 8, 2013 Reply

      ...they are.

  2. Alfred Corduan August 8, 2013 Reply

    The message of the song, at least as as I see it and teach it to my children, is that whatever God made us to be, we will be happiest when we fit it. Which implies that God is so intimately focused on us that He actually has a specific plan “to fit”, like writing it out ahead of time. There is a verse that says exactly that, “my members” being better translated “my days”:

    “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
    marvellous are thy works;
    and that my soul knoweth right well.
    My substance was not hid from thee,
    when I was made in secret,
    and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
    Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect;
    and in thy book all my members were written,
    which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:14-16)

    So . . . implication is NOT that all are designed round . . . but that some are round and some are squares and some are stars. Whatever I am, I need to find it, and live it, and not try to try to live out somebody else’s story. Otherwise I will end up breaking things I will regret.


    (P.S. Can somebody please find me a reference, citation, even recollection of the “women on horses are rebellious” quote? I have never – in 40 years of IBLP focus – heard this one. Which doesn’t mean it didn’t get said. Inquiring minds want to know.)

    • esbee August 9, 2013 Reply

      "whatever God made us to be, we will be happiest when we fit it."
      in Gothardese that is translated to mean- "whatever WE here at the ATI tell you that Gothard said that God made you to be, you will be happiest when you give up all your hopes, dreams in life and finally fit in and go into a dark deep depression."

      Hey, kids, we all want to...
      Be a bubble and live in a bubble,
      Stay away from worldly trouble.
      We will all be each other's double
      Till our lives end in a big bang rubble!

      sorry could not resist being a little, ok a lot, silly (silly sarcastic behavior is not ATI approved) and hey wait a minute, that bubble in the picture IS NOT PERFECTLY ROUND. Look at it! It is slightly or a lot, wonky, as it floats through the air. Hmmmm! I get the idea that as it makes its way through to the point it bursts, it fluctuates and never quite gets to be perfectly round.

      • Heather August 9, 2013 Reply

        Yep, that's about what ATI was. You fit into the mold someone else wanted for you, someone else would hear God's voice for you, you couldn't possible hear God's voice for yourself, that's what your authorities are for.. (Each family practiced this in various degrees of severity. Any degree of practice is wrong, imo. We are to GUIDE our children, not control them. They are not our slaves.)

    • Alfred Corduan August 11, 2013 Reply

      Well . . . that too, esbee, has simply not been our experience. I can't speak for other ATI families, but for us in Southern California it was a constant process of figuring out what we needed to do with the recommendations, testimonies that were presented. We jettisoned as many as we accepted. Any family unwilling or unable to do that really, truly should never be in ATI. Enough said.

      Even when Bill presents the "10 Design Unchangeables", things we have no control over, it is clear that even those are "Designed" for each person. Thinks like my sex, my parents, my time in history . . . my spiritual gift. Beyond that we have specific "callings" that vary drastically from person to person. And finally there are the many "changeables" . . . things I have complete control over. Get a vision and go for it. Did you ever hear anything else taught?

      • esbee August 12, 2013 Reply

        I think by your question "Did you ever hear anything else taught?" is that did I get anything positive and good out of Gothard teachings. (Right now I am thinking, thinking, thinking as to how anything I learned from there had a positive or edifying impact in my life.) So far, I can only think of the negative impact those teachings had on my life. The things I heard taught in the one and only seminar I ever attended with members of my church, and things that we practiced from the red notebook, all caused me to react with extreme guilt and "conviction" over things that were more about my personality than any actual sin. And those 10 unchangeables, just because I could not change them does not mean I had to like them.

      • esbee August 12, 2013 Reply

        to further answer your question---#3 Gender---God created male and female and made a clear distinction between them. (See Genesis 1:27.) Wishing to be of the opposite sex will hinder you from accepting the God-given responsibilities He has assigned to your gender.

        uhm... its those nitpicky little so called "God-given responsibilities" that I have issue they say the devil is in the details.


        #8- Time in History---Since God has a "special purpose" for your life, He has brought you into the world at just the right time in history to fulfill that purpose.

        Below is an image that I think shows God's special purpose in my life....

        • Alfred Corduan August 12, 2013

          Good to know your role in the universe :-) In my higher level math courses we called that "Cat-astrophe Theory"

      • Alfred Corduan August 12, 2013 Reply

        Question being: Did you hear any teaching that would encourage let along demand "clones"? That is, I guess, the allegation here. If even the "unchangeables" vary so greatly from person to person, with the understanding that they are God's deliberate and good design for individuals in His plan, I am trying to understand where the notion of "everybody got to be round" is coming from. The interpretation given to the song is inconsistent to what I, at least, am hearing.

        I mean . . . the world sees Christians as clones or sheep . . . because we have similar moral standards, blindly reject other "divine" authorities besides Jesus, believe what the Bible says even if opposed by Science, won't seriously consider competing philosophies . . . is THAT where we are going? Because that is hardly a "Bill Gothard" thing.

        • Heather August 12, 2013

          No, that's not where we're going. Compare apples to apples please. Requiring precisely the same hair style for me (part on the left is rebellious, part on the right is wholesome) and judging people's spiritual state based on that.... That's what we're talking about.

        • Alfred Corduan August 12, 2013

          OK . . . beats me. Never heard that one. Nor the horses one, BTW. I guess we live sheltered ATI lives . . .

        • Heather August 12, 2013

          That was supposed to say hairstyle for men, not me. My bad, :)

          I heard about that through the grapevine, I think maybe it was mentioned in an article? Not sure what you mean about living sheltered ATI lives, this stuff came out of ATI. Unless maybe you mean sheltered FROM ATI..

          I had never heard the horses one either, as I never went to those particular conferences, but enough different people have mentioned having heard it, that I believe it was said.

        • esbee August 12, 2013

          "Cat-astrophe Theory"

          Wellllll, when the devotees start to dress, look and act, think and talk alike, I kinda get the idea of some sort of "cloning."

        • Alfred Corduan August 13, 2013

          Seriously . . . I have been to plenty of conferences. I have lived long enough to know that some really cool stories take on a life of their own. So . . . I remain a "Rebellious Equine Female Skeptic".

          As to the parting of the hair . . . again . . . I am about to call an urban legend. Missouri . . . show me.

          As to look alike . . . it is all relative, eh? Culture does that . . . white people think black people all do their hair the same (more or less) . . . black people laugh at white people.

          So . . . if "no long hair on guys" and "long hair on girls" spells cloning, I guess it is what it is. Point being both of those items have a Scriptural basis.

          Back to the part . . . wow. In Germany they used to part in the middle . . . the more profane - like my preacher's daughter mother - used to call it the "butt part". Maybe that means it is an unclean way to part? Not sure . . .


        • Heather August 13, 2013

          I think you missed the part where every single person who has said they heard the horses comment, said that this was only said at teen conferences/meetings, NEVER parent conferences. (Also since the comment only refers to women, it's possible BG would have only said it around young women anyway.) So it makes sense that you've never heard it. And I've never been to any teen conferences, plus it's entirely possible I'd have tuned out at some point, and missed the comment anyway. I wasn't casting doubt on him having made that comment.

        • Alfred Corduan August 13, 2013

          Well SOMEONE can document this. Not the least being the author of the article, right, assuming this is not hearsay? I think it is time . . . since it is such a deliciously bad kind of thing that just forces its way into so many posts. IF there were a reference in Scripture that would seem to indicate that, I am thinking I would have run into it.

          I am thinking . . . The daughter of Caleb rode up on a donkey to see him and ask for an upgrade of the inheritance he was giving her (Joshua 15) . . . the Shunnimite woman rode on a donkey to see Elijah after her son died (1 Kings 4) . . . Mary rode on a donkey . . . maybe donkeys are OK? I am just at a loss to figure this one out . . .

          It is time to verify!

        • BeverlyB August 13, 2013

          Alfred, I also remember hearing this about women and horses. Also, women were NOT supposed to go running, because it would mess up their reproductive capabilities. And THAT is total BS. The problem with Gothard is that he often taught some of his weirdest stuff in seminars with the youth while the parents were in other seminars. It never made its way into print, and the parents never got the craziest parts of his teachings. He's a smart guy. Some of his teachings he plain told us not to tell our parents. And of course we were trained to be obedient, so it wasn't until years later that we realized how messed up it all was.

        • BeverlyB August 13, 2013

          So bottom line, unless you can get transcripts of all the BS he said in-person to the youth, you might never find that "documented" source. But just because it's not documented, doesn't mean all our individual memories are wrong. Especially since we don't know each other, and we all remember the same thing being taught. To assume we're all making up the same memories would be crazy. It's a better assumption to believe Gothard was smart enough not to put his dumbest ideas in print.

        • Alfred Corduan August 13, 2013

          Beverly: I am just asking for a first hand account. Is this something you heard him say? If so, I believe you. If so . . . I would sure love to try to get a context, anything to help me try to understand. This is the sort of thing that I go trucking back to HQ on . . . because, again, inquiring minds want to know.

          Running, reproductive harm? I HAVE heard this from someone who was extremely active on a farm, throwing bales of hay and all. Of course, one person's diagnosis doth not a pattern make.

    • WendyA August 13, 2013 Reply

      Fine. Yes, Alfred, I PERSONALLY, with my own two ears, heard Mr. Gothard say at one of the Knoxville conference training sessions for young ladies that women who rode horses were displaying a rebellious spirit. Which I always did think was ridiculous. Where would America be without the pioneer women who not only rode horses, but also harnessed them to wagons, plows, and other equipment to help their menfolk prepare their homesteads. Besides, Jesus's mother rode a donkey. I'm pretty sure she'd have ridden a horse if they could have afforded one.

      I ALSO heard, with my own two ears, Mr. Gothard tell a group of girls that running and other such strenuous physical exercise was not good for their reproductive systems. If I remember correctly, this was at a Sunday night meeting at IBLP HQ shortly after Ann Kiemel Anderson and her family (husband and four sons) came to stay there (I never did know why they came), and he used her struggles with infertility as an example of the damage running could do to a woman's body. Which I remember thinking was highly insensitive to Ann as well as incredibly stupid.

      • Alfred Corduan August 14, 2013 Reply

        Thank you, Wendy . . . I really appreciate it.

        Which leaves me somewhat confused, and now really curious as to what context would lead to such a statement. I will make some inquiry. I know that some believe women should not drive - the alleged force behind it being that they should be so respected and taken care of that they should never even NEED to drive. (I can anticipate a bunch of reactions . . . it's OK, my young ladies all drive) But . . . a horse? I am even trying to recall any instance that I could apply that to.

        As to reproductive organs . . . again, I know there is some at least minor point to that. I believe it was a former secretary of a small startup I was part of that had to deal with some non-trivial damage. From being a vigorous farm girl, pitching bales of hay and whatnot.

        • WendyA August 14, 2013

          I believe, but I cannot be certain because it was nearly 20 years ago now and things do tend to run together a bit in the memory, that the question about horseback riding came up in a young ladies' session during the Q&A because the speaker had been talking about modest dress, girls not wearing pants, and especially not wearing denim. Again, IF I remember correctly, the young lady who asked the question lived on a farm and part of her work was caring for the horses, which included climbing a ladder into the hayloft, riding the horses to exercise them, and other such activities that are _possible_ in a skirt but that are much _safer_ and _easier_ in jeans.

          As for the driving thing, it's just stupid to restrict women that way, and I promise you that a lot of the countries do it, not as a way to honour the women, but as a way to control them. (I appreciate that you pointed out that your womenfolk all drive, btw.) I LOVE to drive, and when I was married, I found it very frustrating that my husband insisted on doing the driving, even on long trips, when he doesn't like to drive. It seems ridiculous to me that the person who hates it does it because he thinks "I'm the man and I'm _supposed_ to" when there's someone who LOVES it and would GLADLY take that onerous chore from him.

          And finally, there is a VERY big difference between running for exercise (or for fun) and "being a vigorous farm girl, pitching bales of hay...."

        • Alfred Corduan August 15, 2013

          Interesting. So . . . it had something to do with "modesty", perhaps. Is that the rebellious streak? I am trying to discern if this was an off-hand thing . . . or a "policy". I bet the former . . . 'cause I never heard it . . . and I know the ATI families in our area would have found it amusing.

          And this might not have even been Mr. G? As strange as it may seem to some, I have found his perspectives to be downright moderate compared with what some of the über-zealous folk that collect around him come up with.

          I recall a Q&A with folk asking about women preachers . . . and he said that it was a minor issue, not worth stirring up trouble over. Also on ladies in pants . . . one comment I heard, I think in a private conversation, was similar . . . not worth sweating over. HQ rules are much stricter, of course, but this being standards in the home.

        • WendyA August 15, 2013

          Jiminy. I don't know where where you got the idea that "it might not have been" Mr. Gothard. It WAS Mr. Gothard who said that women who rode horses were demonstrating a rebellious spirit. Yes, a young woman had been speaking about modesty, but she was not the one moderating the Q&A. Maybe it's different now from the way it was done 20 years ago, but back in my day BG didn't permit a Q&A session with the young people unless he was there to superintend. He might permit a speaker to answer a question related to their own personal story, but in matters of "this is right and that is wrong," he always reserved the right to pass judgment.

          Furthermore, you clearly fail to grasp the fact that, for many people, and especially for many of the young people who were raised from birth in ATI, everything BG said, whether uttered offhand or ex cathedra, was God's own perfect word and was absolute law to be obeyed without question. (I'm not saying these people were right to look at it that way, but it is a fact that there were many, many people who did.) If BG had said in a staff meeting that wearing pink meant that a man was a homosexual, then every male on staff would have removed every item of pink from his wardrobe without question. If he had said at a Knoxville conference session that eating peanuts was a sin, then a tremendous portion of the attendees would never have allowed a peanut to cross their lips again. (While I am making up these examples, I am not exaggerating to make a point. I heard some of the most sycophantic nonsense at some of these meetings and conferences.) BG did not encourage the young people around him to be Bereans ... at least, not about his teachings. Those of us who tried to be Bereans, or who were just troubled, doubting Thomases, quickly found ourselves shunned, scorned, or publicly humiliated.

        • dreamer August 17, 2013

          The "women shouldn't run" belief was actually pretty common for decades. It's not just an ATI thing. It was believed that running could cause infertility. I've even heard that some believed a woman's uterus might fall out. ?! Women weren't officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon until the 1970's.

  3. RyanR August 9, 2013 Reply


    Your interpretation about the point of the song is fair, but in my opinion, so was Lindsey's childhood takeaway because of this lyric:

    For in the world of bubbles,
    all of the ones you’ll find are
    round and round and round and round….
    The way that God designed.

    From the perspective of a child, CI staff essentially all wore the same clothes and sported the same hairstyle and definitely the same plastic smile. Heck, a lot of us even adopted the same vocal inflection pattern

    A child watching all of that, wanting to emulate these nice teachers, whom their parents told them to listen to, and who are all the same as one another, could reasonably interpret the lyrics I mentioned above to mean, "We should ALL be round i.e., we should all be like these teachers who are all like each other."

    It's great that you are a voice of moderation for your children with respect to ATI things, but not every child was so fortunate.

  4. Alfred Corduan August 9, 2013 Reply

    Well . . . bottom line, our experience just didn't follow what was put forward, and I do appreciate different things strike people in different ways. It is a delightful song - the wee ones love the "Pop" at the end. And . . . I would never tolerate my precious ones being taught that "Clone-liness is next to godliness". That is revolting. I would have been knocking on doors, as I have with other issues.

    The point is "design". Bubbles work best when round, always seek for it "subconsciously".

    o If I am a guy, for example, I will subconsciously start doing "guy" things, to one degree or another. If society announces that there is no such thing as "guy stuff" and "girl stuff", and then wheels come off downstream because people are ignorantly running over God's design, there really is a reason.

    o It is not unreasonable to anticipate that people designed for public roles may look more attractive than others - apparently that was the "faith" of Moses Mom when she noted that he was a way better looking baby than others, and took special steps in response. (Before reacting, read it: Hebrews 11:23, "proper" in KJV being "good looking")

    o You might expect that those designed to be preachers will have a voice to go with it. Spurgeon said exactly that as he worked with young men looking to serve.

    o Gladys Aylward was depressed because she was not attractive enough - let alone tall enough - to be taken seriously as an actress, her first love. How ironic that one of the top - and tallest - actresses of her day - Intrid Bergman - was honored to play her in "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness". See? Design - find your bent, find your blessing.

    Children's Institute was and remains a big "upper" of all the conference related stuff. My young people enjoyed it enough to volunteer year after year - no way did we ever push, in fact, almost the opposite. They delighted in the children, loved them, took endless pictures of them, kept in touch with them.

    • Heather August 9, 2013 Reply

      Moses' mom wasn't anticipating his ministry when she saved him 'by faith'. She was anticipating his very survival. It honestly suggests that if Moses had been ugly, she'd have been fine with him dying, and I really doubt that was the situation. I think the 'goodly' didn't mean good looking. It may have meant 'good looking' in KJV (the political Bible), but what I've read other versions where it says goodly as in, 'healthy, whole'. I could see how MAYBE if Moses had been a sickly, close-to-death child, his mother may not have saved him, considering it to be a mercy to let him die. Maybe. She just couldn't bear the thought of a perfectly healthy son dying for no good reason.

      btw, God chose Moses even though Moses didn't have a 'preacher's voice'. No word about whether Moses (or Aaron) were attractive as adults.

    • Alfred Corduan August 11, 2013 Reply

      Testimony of Stephen: "In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months" (Acts 7:20)

      "Exceeding Fair" . . .

      Exceeding = "theos" = God, godly . . . a magistrate . . . exceeding
      Fair = "asteios" = urbane, handsome

      There was a look, a glow about him that just said "God did something special here".

      And . . . don't you consider her actions a bit unusual? I mean . . . the whole ark thing, in the river, sister watching. Any chance she had a plan worked out? I personally think it was likely. Faith engaged because she saw he was a really strikingly, unusually good looking baby who clearly had some special destiny ordained by God.

  5. Lynn August 10, 2013 Reply

    Charlton Heston was pretty good-looking. Sorry, couldn't resist.

  6. Linn August 10, 2013 Reply

    I only attended one Gothard conference (the basic one),and I am so thankful it was only one. I was born with a birth defect that has made walking a struggle my entire life. My family of origin, as much as I love them, was full of domestic violence and addiction. I had to get away from my family, with God's help, to even begin to build a normal life for myself. I have a high view of God's sovereignty, but I also have a high view of following Him to the place of His choosing, and that meant following Him right out of my home as soon as I turned 18. Forty years later, I've had a wonderful life, and, by God's grace, have not repeated the family tragedies. However, I wonder where I would have ended up if I had followed Gothard's principles? I'd probably still be trying to get my Dad's permission to do something, and trying to figure out why I couldn't walk well, instead of following my passions (cross-cultural missions/teaching) and having several surgeries so that I could keep moving. The wisest decision I ever made was to toss my red binder about a year after the conference.

    • ted August 18, 2013 Reply

      Good for you Linn,,, you saying about tossing your red binder makes me think of a close friend of ours that manages a second hand store in a medium-sized city that does a phenomenal work w/ the unsaved poor in that area of the city.. they get lots of donations to put on their shelves to sell and give to the needy, and also present them w/ the Gospel. Anyway, he told me one time that they get lots of gothard and ati materials and that all those materials and "red books" go straight out to the dumpster. He had been through bg's conferences years ago, took him several years to undo the brainwashing, and doesn't want anyone else to have their spiritual lives damaged.. I asked him to save a few books for me, which he did, and I will look at them when I get more time this fall/winter. When we were first married in mid 70's, we went to a basic, but not sure where my notes are. My folks got into it a little deeper, w/ dad also going to a men's conference in LA I think it was---still didn't actually treat my mom much better (not that he was mean or anything), but that gothard basically promotes misogyny (or a toned down form of it). I learned well,, am in my late 50's and wife and I still have some struggles----

  7. Vera Berry October 13, 2013 Reply

    Some of you may remember me. I am the nice lady that started Wisdom Searchers, which was the lady's email list to support them. Doug and I were in ATI for about 15 years. We have a story that would beat all stories concerning Mr. Gothard and our son Michael. If that doesn't make some of those who know the story have a minor coronary, I don't know what would. :-)

    I have come a long way since those days. I am presently an RN at a children's hospital in Miami. I work in a step-down unit for very sick babies. I went back to work in 2009 to help my husband. I tortured over that decision to go back to work because of the teaching of this ministry and the cause and effect with women working outside the home. But thankfully, the Holy Spirit prevailed and we did not go under in the big way during the Great Recession.

    My children are ok today. I couldn't ask for better children. And I'm not sorry we were in ATI. I learned what the gospel message isn't through this ministry and that has helped my husband and I to learn how to test Scripture and discern the truth. We are evangelists. We pay for all our ministry opportunities out of our own pocket.

    I have been perusing this web site for several days. One very important point that I want to shout from the rooftop is that you people are still following this same line of thinking. I think it is a fallacy to say that an upbringing has relevance to this topic. For example, the girl whose dad was a little pervert is not a BG problem but a major universal church problem. Doug and I try to redirect people to see that living in sin was never the message. But regardless of what we say, we get hit with counterarguments that Christians sin every day and at the end of the day are forgiven. Calvinism has played a huge role in why we have the Bill Gothards, Joel Osteens, John MacAuthurs, Billy Grahams, the Pope and on and on it goes. I find equal fault with the YEC movement and Ken Ham and Kent Hovind who are couple of liars. We exalt these people as conduits to God. Bill Gothard's biggest kingpin argument was his yearly 30 day fast that didn't seem to do squat to help him come to the knowledge of the truth. But it trumped anything else any of the rest of us could proclaim as "seeking The Lord." The problem with these bigwig ministries is money. Follow the money... Bill Gothard may have started out with good intentions but he lost that when his pride got in the way coupled with the vast wealth he was amassing through this ministry and the donations that he manipulated out of people. He tied up this load on people and didn't lift a finger to help them carry it. Any problem we had with our children required more money to solve. The problem is that we were trusting The Lord for our family size, signed papers stating I wouldn't work outside the home and had no money as a result. So it left me personally feeling rejected of God because He wasn't supplying my needs to solve these issues for my children. I didn't have six children to raise bad kids but my only solution was blocked by money. When I would approach these people about this problem, I was constantly told that the problem was that my husband was sinning in some secret way. Poor Doug. I grilled him to the max to find out what sin he was doing. Could I get any stupider? Anyway, let me just say that Bill Gothard is in big trouble with a very Holy God who hates these works that are born out of pure narcissism and selfishness. If he doesn't repent, he is going to perish with his gold and silver and bust hell wide open.

    I will never forget the time that my grand moment where I was going to give a message in ATI was canned due to some discrepancy. I know now that this was God preventing me from making a huge mistake. But at the time, I was so hurt by Mr. Gothard's total disregard for not keeping his word to me. This was the complete opposite of one of his messages from the Basic Seminar where we were all made to feel empathy for the boy whose father gave him his word and failed. So there he was behind the scenes walking down the hallway like the president of the USA with his entourage of young people in business suits and clipboards taking notes etc. I was made to feel small and insignificant in his presence as he left me in the dust. God forbid that I would say anything because that would be "bitter." :-) I want to say that the NT believers never conducted themselves this way. I would say Paul was one of the most down to earth people ever to be a part of Christianity. But these icons of Christianity that we idolize today are completely and utterly unapproachable. They insulate themselves from anyone who would speak into their lives and we perpetuate the problem by not testing what they say and giving them tons of money. That was not the model of the early church where everyone had something to contribute and words from The Lord were supposed to be tested. Does anyone ever test these words from God that Mr. Gothard supposedly receives?

    In fact, that very point was what caused the last remaining friends I had in ATI to "defriend" me. LOL. A mom wrote in that her child was living in sin and I said that she needed to start at the beginning to get her saved. We cannot change someone. That is what grace does through faith. That offended her and that is when I discovered just how many Calvinists were a part of ATI. I have never spoken to them since with the exception of one mother. Oh, they are on my FB but it is all superficial conversations.

    Doug and I are evangelists. We talk to thousands upon thousands of people from every walk of life and religion. We know how to test a spiritual premise. We know what the message of salvation is now. I put one of our Youtube videos above. The sin problem in this nation is epidemic. But bar none, the most difficult people we find to talk to are the little sinning perverts that come from this ministry who think that because they had some tragic upbringing, this gives them a rationale in God's sight to live in sin. Wrong again. And just like their little mentor, they insulate themselves behind the scenes. The father who was in adultery wasn't saved. Pure and simple. Paul made specific lists of what the works of the flesh were and in both Galatians 5 and 1 Cor 5 and 6, he makes it crystal clear that those living in sin are not getting in. Jesus said it best when He said they do not know Him. Matthew 7:21. I had a rotten upbringing too and my parents had never heard of a person named Bill Gothard. We were Lutherans in a sinning little Lutheran church. I am not responsible for their sin and they aren't responsible for mine. I am responsible before God for my life. Jesus came to set me free from sin.

    Bill Gothard muddied the waters with his standards. He put another face on the law to be righteous. In other words, we can be righteous if we just stay away from rock music. It doesn't work. And we aren't justified in God's sight because we listened to melodious music nor are we exonerated because we fornicate while listening to some piece of music. That idea is absurd. Nobody makes you sin. You choose it by your own freewill to choose. It is another gospel and those who reach another gospel are accursed and that is the bottom line here. It doesn't produce righteousness. God's grace does that.

    Hope this helps someone out there.

    • Heather October 13, 2013 Reply

      Hello Vera, thank you for your comment. I am a little confused as to what the general message is you are trying to convey. It seemed here, 'But bar none, the most difficult people we find to talk to are the little sinning perverts that come from this ministry who think that because they had some tragic upbringing, this gives them a rationale in God's sight to live in sin. Wrong again. And just like their little mentor, they insulate themselves behind the scenes.' that you are suggesting that the across the board community here at Recovering Grace, are suggesting, condoning, and actively living in sin. Is this what you are saying? Or was this comment in reference to the people in ATI who are secretly sinning and covering it up? Would you please clarify your meaning?

      • Vera Berry October 14, 2013 Reply

        Thank you for your note, Heather. No, I'm not suggesting that at all. In fact, I have been impressed with some of the articles I've read here. What I'm concerned about is what we see out on the streets and online from those who have been involved in any type of legalistic ministry including this one. This is not the only one, you know? Many of these people have declared themselves atheists. They are totally sure that Christianity is a scam and false religion. Nothing we say or do gets them to recant. I am telling you that it is near impossible to get through to one of these people.

        The thing about Mr. Gothard was that he was very effective at putting a burden on people as though his standards justified a man before God bringing blessing and not keeping those standards is sin bringing God's retribution, which muddied the waters on what sin is. So when we might meet someone like this who is caught up in any sexual deviance (which is a one way ticket into hell) and tell them their need to repent and be filled with the Holy Spirit and grace, do you know what they hear? They hear Bill Gothard's standards. I am telling you that this was not solely from Bill Gothard though. There are many denominations that are legalists. These atheists tell us about their horrible upbringing. They don't want to be back under that burden again and so they reject the message.

        I fully understand this bondage, which is why I was explaining how difficult it was for me to go back to work. We as moms were told over and over again that God was going to punish us or be disappointed in us if we worked outside the home. We were told that we were outside of God's will if we did. One of the authors here explained that very well in terms of how we all were made to feel that we were in sin if we did not hold to Bill Gothard's laundry list of standards. Paul's lists of the works of the flesh had nothing to do with this. Can you see though how by using that approach, Mr. Gothard confused this issue on what sin actually is?

        Look at that whole anger resolution seminar. I recall him distinctly saying that Jesus could be angry because He is God but we can't. That does not work for me. Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus was made exactly like we are. If anger is sin for a human and Jesus was angry, that would make Jesus a sinner and since Jesus is not a sinner, all anger is not sin. You may recall where he would often say that some little sinning young person (who really was in sin) came into his office and they explored the why question of why he or she was sinning and it came back to Dad's anger problems. I don't recall Jesus ever exploring the why question. Plus, Ezekiel 18 refutes this. Jesus and the apostles just called people to repent and turn to God like the publican. That is what brings us grace and that is what sets us free from sin. Dad's anger issue is not an excuse for sin and we are not even told what Dad was angry about. Jesus got plenty angry over sin. And God's wrath is still on sinners, which is what we are being saved from. Once we repent, we are then in the love of God and I know God's love now. Keeping His commandments is a demonstration of our love for Jesus. His love was never in question. It is our love toward Him. But it is because I agreed with Him on the my sin issues that put Him on that cross that changed my life.

        Do you remember Mr. Gothard's story of his dad taking him out to witness and his dad was totally concerned about him looking at one of those little nickel movies so that he never went with him out witnessing again lest he be tainted by the world? How ridiculous is that? When our children started seeing the need for people to be saved, it was no longer about how they were going to start sinning because someone else was sinning but taking hold of God's grace and going out to the darkest vilest places in America to lead people to repent. My children are so proud of their dad today.

        It is an utterly ridiculous proposition to assume that one can raise children that never sin by keeping them with standards. That was the kicker concerning Mr. Gothard not being married. He had no children to prove that he could do this through standards, which we know was destined to be a fail. All sin and fall short of the glory of God. It is that which leads us to the Savior. God being the perfect parent had sinning children. So if the fault of sin lies on the parents, that would make God a sinner and since God is not a sinner, it comes back to each individual choosing to sin. We are born with a clean slate and a clear conscience and we can get back to that state because of what Jesus did for us by grace through faith. The law cannot do this in our lives.

        Then lastly, Mr. Gothard said in one of his emails that salvation is a process. He said that our spirit is perfected in salvation but it takes time for our souls meaning that he was more saved than others. This constantly puts him in this position of exultation over everyone else. It brought him so much money that he used to build his controlling empire. He did not use those things as God ordained him to use them. There is no grace in Bill Gothard. There is no humility. We were constantly made to feel like worms in his presence becuase he is the great Bill Gothard. It is such a tragedy. This would lead me to my story about my son Michael. We are only now seeing Michael come out of his sin and I thank God for that!!


        • Heather October 14, 2013

          Thank you for explaining.:)

  8. David October 16, 2013 Reply

    Bottom line: Bill Gothard not only teaches many false things about Christianity -- he teaches a false Christianity, period -- Paul could have wrote the book of Galatians to him personally. Indeed, even the authority system in Gothardism is a replacement for Jesus Christ as the ONLY Mediator between God and man. The gospel of BG is another gospel, and BG preaches another Jesus. People can argue all they want about this or that point of law, or the validity of this or that standard, or whether BG said this or that, etc. But in the end, it is all another gospel. I'm sure that the Galatians had wonderful standards with lots of rules and laws, all intended to keep them in God's blessings. Probably none of them chewed gum on Sunday, etc. Paul said, "You have deserted Christ.....Christ is of no effect to you." Paul tried to tell them, "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation." And lastly, "I travail...until Christ be formed in you." Gothardism is a legalistic cult, and those who are in it are deceived -- there is simply no way to get through to them -- there is always an explanation or justification. The only solution is for people to come to the place where they see that true Christianity is, "Christ in us the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27) -- and that He is made unto us righteousness. (I Cor. 1:30) This is the core of Christianity and something about which BG knows nothing.

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