Issues of Concern—Bill Gothard and the Bible (1984)

2 September 2013, 05:00



A Report by Ronald B. Allen, Th.D.
Professor of Hebrew Scripture
Western Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon

May 30, 1984

iblp booksThe week that I spent at Basic Youth Conflicts in 1973 (Portland) was one of the most difficult of my life. In this seminar I was regularly assaulted by a misuse of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament, on a level that I have never experienced in a public ministry before that time (or since). All speakers, including myself, fail to interpret and apply the Bible rightly from time to time. But in the Gothard lectures, Old Testament passages were used time after time to argue points that they did not prove. I was as troubled by the errors made from the lectern as by the seeming acceptance of these errors as true and factual by the many thousands of people in attendance.

At the time, I made my complaints known to Dr. [Earl] Radmacher who proposed a meeting with Mr. Gothard in Portland. Gothard subsequently told Radmacher that the two of them might meet together, but that he had no interest in meeting with me to discuss these issues. I am setting these issues down on paper at this time at the request of Dr. Radmacher for a meeting that he will be having with Mr. Gothard on May 31, 1984.

I do not raise these issues with any desire to deny that God has been pleased to bring blessing to many thousands of people through the ministry of Bill Gothard. But I do raise these issues to demonstrate—willful or not—Gothard’s use of Scripture is so suspect as to render him a poorly informed and untrustworthy teacher. To cite letters of approval based on success stories is beside the point, unless one wishes to argue that the end justifies the means.

Here are a few of the issues that concerned me then and which have been added to over the years:

1) A mechanistic approach to human personality.

There are ten steps for this and five steps for that, yet eight steps for another. Such an approach to human personality accords neither with the variations in people or with the dynamics of Scripture. The listing of these “steps” is pure human invention, but Gothard presents each of the lists as though they were the direct teaching of the Bible. This is my principle objection to his ministry.

For example, the wisdom literature of the Bible uses many terms to describe the fool. One word peti (Prov. 1:4; 14:15; 22:3) describes the naive, the one who is inexperienced and is at a crossroads, drifting along to temptation, but still within hearing of wisdom. Another word is les (Prov. 1:22; Psalm 1:1), to describe the scorner who is unteachable, idle, foolish and irrational. These two words depict two extremes in folly, but the Bible does not spell out the steps that leads from the stage of peti to the stage of les. The Bible uses various terms at various times to describe differing people, or even the same person in differing aspects. That is, the presentation of folly in the Bible is dynamic and relational, not mechanistic and impersonal.

Gothard’s approach is not that of the careful exegete who wishes to determine the meaning of the text, but of the engineer who wishes to use the material in his own programmatic approach which is mechanical and not personal, mechanistic and not dynamic. Gothard does not really teach the Scripture; he really uses the Scripture to fit into his own categories.

It is particularly in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, a section that Gothard uses often, that Gothard is at his weakest from an exegetical and theological point of view. He uses the Proverbs not as general maxims, but as specific, predictive, authoritative predications. He has not really entered into the world of biblical wisdom, a world which does not present the simple answers to the complex questions of life that he imagines.

Qoholet,* for example, presents quite a different picture than Gothard’s simple lists. Qoholet presents a world of ambiguity, of uncertainty, of questionable value—but a world in which the man or woman of God may demonstrate resolute faith in God even when one cannot pin down the nature and value of reality.

The Book of Job presents a point of view that is dramatically different from Gothard’s lists. In fact, Gothard is a splendid modern example of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar—each of whom approached the problems of Job from a mechanistic, cause-and-effect, point of view. Here was their principle error: while there is a cause-and-effect approach to reality that is found at times in the wisdom literature of Scripture, that is not the only approach to life that the Bible teaches.

The clear teaching of the Book of Job is that a mechanistic, cause-and-effect approach to life may be way off base! Is it any wonder that Gothard tries to evade the clear teaching of the Bible that Job was a righteous man (the only reading on which the book works!), and finds many sins and character flaws in him (overwork in Christian causes, neglect of his family, embittered sons, estranged from family, wrong attitudes toward the workers). In this way the book is turned inside out and by this strange alchemy Job supports Gothard’s lists.

Given Gothard’s low view of the body and his repressed views of human sexuality, it is not surprising that he neglects entirely the Song of Solomon with its beautiful eroticism and its delight in human sexuality. For Gothard, the things done between a man and a woman are the secret things of Ephesians 5:12, a disgrace even to speak of such. Only on the basis of his own negative, programmatic approach to human sexuality would Ephesians 5:12 refer to the marriage bed. Serious exegesis matters little in such an approach.

Similarly, only one having a point to prove, and not a passage to understand, would say that the Chain-of-Command applies in all cases to commands from parents whether they are regenerate or not. Gothard says: “Notice that the spiritual condition of the parents is not listed as a factor in obeying these clear commands.” Then, without giving the source, he quotes Prov. 6:20-21:

My son, keep they father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother; bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

To assert that the spiritual condition of the parental teachers of wisdom is irrelevant in this text is an absurdity, a mark of sheer incompetence of biblical interpretation. The writer of Proverbs 1-9 is presenting teaching that is in the mold of the Torah of Moses. These words of Proverbs 6 (see verses 22-23) are reflective of Deuteronomy 6 and are responsive to Psalm 119. To say that they may be applied indiscriminately of unregenerate parents in a chain-of-command mentality is not to interpret the Bible, but to use the Bible for one’s own ends.

2) A dogmatic presentation of personal opinions as though they were the word of God, when in fact they are countered by the Bible itself.

Paramount among these is the terrible picture of the chain of command in the family with the husband as the hammer, the wife as the chisel and the children as the gems in the rough. (In my Red Notebook, this is page 3 of the “Chain-of-Command” Notes). The ghastly picture is that he beats on her and she chips on them. If ever there were a reason for a women’s movement in the evangelical church—this is it. This illustration is simply not reflective of biblical theology; it is a parody of patriarchalism.

Lost is all concept of mutual submission and inter-relatedness of wife and husband which the Bible truly presents; instead there is the basest form of male chauvinism I have ever heard in a Christian context.

Women are stripped of dignity other than that which they have in their husband; children are to be broken; the husband is to be permitted tyranny over the grin-and-bear-it little woman. Gothard has lost the biblical balance of the relationship between women and men as equals in relationship. His view is basically anti-woman.

3) Presentation of discredited opinions of Scripture as correct evangelical insights and “new discoveries” for the church today.

I will never forget the presentation made in the seminar I attended where the Torah’s injunction not to boil the kid in its mother’s milk (the mistaken basis for the Jewish tradition of meat-dietary laws) was applied to the Christian church!

“Why do Christians get sick?” he asked. “Because they do not eat as God has commanded!” He then proceeded not only to lay the burden of the Levitical dietary law on the people, but the non-biblical injunction of meat-dairy distinctions as well! I cannot understand why people did not rise en masse and object to this error then and there. But all wrote these notes in their red notebooks as another insight from his peculiar mount. Even Jewish authorities now admit that Maimonides was correct, that the passages on boiling a kid in its mother’s milk had nothing to do with diet but with an abominable sacrificial practice of the Canaanites from which Israel was to abstain. But in the teaching of Gothard an ancient bad turn of Judaism was made the new path for Christian people.

4) A surprising use of Scripture texts to produce guilt on the part of godly people.

Women with rebellious sons are made to believe that these heartaches are the direct result of their own lack of submission to their husbands. Guilt is piled on guilt.

Surpassing even my credibility level is the audacious new teaching reported to me that Gothard now warns parents of adopted children that they may be under the injunction of God’s displeasure because the children they have adopted may be visited by God for the iniquity of their fathers. The only result of such a teaching is guilt—something Gothard seems to desire to produce in his people.

That the Bible never ties adoption and the “sins of the fathers” is not a consideration. Imagine the consequences in the life of both the adoptive parents and the adopted children of such a pernicious teaching. This is an example of a mechanical use of the Bible that shows no sensitivity to context, culture, theology or the character of God. What could be the motivation for such a teaching? I really do not know.

5) A hypocrisy of life standard.

Gothard makes an issue of a low personal profile. He shuns magazine and news reporters, refuses to allow interviews or photos. But somehow he does make it well known that he lives on a sub-standard wage (about $600 per month, as I remember), without mentioning that every creature comfort is provided by company funds. A person who does not think through these issues would imagine Gothard to be living at a poverty level—as a modern monastic.

I have no brief for low wages, nor any compelling complaint against a very high wage when it is earned by true industry and when it is used with compassion for the needy and not only for a fine life-style. My complaint here is against what is said and what is real—the disparity of statement and life-style.

6) The personal problems in the life of Bill Gothard and his organization were not a matter of public record when I attended the seminar in 1973.

It appears to me that these sad problems—and the failure to rectify them—are the results of using the Bible but not really learning from it. When the Bible becomes something that one can manipulate, then personal difficulties can be rationalized away with impunity.

I close with this quotation from Wilfred Bockelman, Gothard: The Man and His Ministry: An Evaluation:

One final example should be sufficient to warn the reader against distorting the scriptures to support a preconception. In one of his lectures I heard Gothard say: “There are those who say, ‘What’s wrong with drinking a little wine? Doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus himself made wine?’ It is inconceivable that Jesus made wine. Wine comes about through a process of decomposition. Decomposition is a part of death, and Jesus was the exact opposite of death. He is life himself. It is inconceivable that Jesus could be party to something that involved death. It is inconceivable that Jesus made wine.” It should be obvious to the reader that when scripture is treated like this, it can be made to say anything. [Santa Barbara: Quill Publications, 1976, (p. 56)]


*Qoholet refers to the narrator of the book of Ecclesiastes. It is a Hebrew word meaning “Preacher,” and is sometimes used as the title of the book.

Ronald B AllenDr. Ron Allen is currently the Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Dallas Seminary, Dr. Allen ministers as a guest professor or lecturer in schools in North America and in numerous countries abroad. He preaches in churches across the country, speaks at Bible conferences, regularly leads study tours in Israel, Turkey, and Greece, and has been a biblical and theological consultant for Maranatha! Music. He has written a dozen books, was one of the senior editors for The New King James Version, Old Testament, and was the Old Testament editor for both The Nelson Study Bible (aka The NKJV Study Bible) and The Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary. His ongoing research interests are in the worship of God and in studies of the grace of God in Hebrew Scripture.
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. Chris Symonds September 2, 2013 Reply

    I particularly wanted to comment on Don Allen's point

    ") A dogmatic presentation of personal opinions as though they were the word of God, when in fact they are countered by the Bible itself.

    Paramount among these is the terrible picture of the chain of command in the family with the husband as the hammer, the wife as the chisel and the children as the gems in the rough. (In my Red Notebook, this is page 3 of the “Chain-of-Command” Notes). The ghastly picture is that he beats on her and she chips on them. If ever there were a reason for a women’s movement in the evangelical church—this is it. This illustration is simply not reflective of biblical theology; it is a parody of patriarchalism.

    Lost is all concept of mutual submission and inter-relatedness of wife and husband which the Bible truly presents; instead there is the basest form of male chauvinism I have ever heard in a Christian context.

    Women are stripped of dignity other than that which they have in their husband; children are to be broken; the husband is to be permitted tyranny over the grin-and-bear-it little woman. Gothard has lost the biblical balance of the relationship between women and men as equals in relationship. His view is basically anti-woman"

    I went through this same issue with a man regarding his wife and children. I would like to add that it is worse than anti-woman it is misogynistic! There is an author who takes the view that through the fall woman cannot be trusted to make spiritual decisions and places them somewhere above animals but below males. I don't see much difference between Gothard's chain of command and this view.

    I posted on the rest of this elsewhere so I wont repeat myself. I will say this, I think it is a theology of convenience that men can use to justify their own actions.

  2. MatthewS September 2, 2013 Reply

    This piece is right on. Dr. Allen saw all this in the early 1980s or so, before all the problems had worked themselves out over the next generation. I find that impressive. To me, that is real wisdom in action - seeing beneath the surface and knowing what you are seeing.

    • GuyS September 9, 2013 Reply

      An expression I like is, "Bad theology is a cruel taskmaster?" My experience is that you can count on bad fruit with bad theology, you just don't know how bad.

  3. MatthewS September 2, 2013 Reply

    Regarding number 5, "A hypocrisy of life standard", that shows up in the ebook about "being reviled" that Gothard just published, where Gothard "rejoices" in his 1973 automobile and the "fact that he owns no real estate." To call it hypocritical to is to give it the benefit of the doubt when he controls millions of dollars in assets and lives in the lap of luxury, complete with personal assistants to attend to his needs. The day to day lifestyle versus the image cultivated: there is a world of difference.

  4. Gayle September 2, 2013 Reply

    I think my mother attended the same basic in Portland wish she had had this teaching right after that event it might have saved her much pain.

  5. esbee September 2, 2013 Reply

    Gothard's opinion about Jesus not making wine because it involves death ... "It is inconceivable that Jesus could be party to something that involved death."

    .... then what was that little event involving Jesus, nails and a cross ?????????????????????

    • MatthewS September 2, 2013 Reply

      or "except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and dies..."

      I'm sure you won't find this gem about alchohol in writing, but Gothard is chock full of "wisdom" that he runs around sharing with people, especially to the kids when the parents aren't around. People who follow him literally accept his words as though he speaks for God, directly from God, to his followers. His logic is often faulty and his interpretation of the Bible is often questionable. It is truly scary when you think about the situation that he has created and that his followers have helped him create.

      • Lara September 3, 2013 Reply

        Actually I believe it was in writing - I remember reading in one of the Wisdom Booklets about the water-into-wine miracle: "That Jesus did this is impossible; fermentation is a process of death, and he is life." Struck me as ludicrous even at the time.

        • LBrown September 3, 2013

          This idea is also quoted in the "Virtue" journal. That's where I remember reading it.

        • Greg September 4, 2013

          Fed 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes---no doubt the fish were dead,,,, also the disciples were out fishing early one morning and Jesus was cooking up breakfast for 'em when they rowed in.....Oh yeah---Christ not only raised Lazarus from the dead, but took His time getting to him so lazarus would be nice and ripe just so Christ would prove who He really is....come on bg,,learn your scripture

    • Lauren S. September 4, 2013 Reply

      I came across this little gem of Jesus not creating wine because it is a process of death when I went through EXCEL. My first thought was, "Uh, what do you call what happened to that fig tree he cursed?"

    • susanna September 5, 2013 Reply

      As part of a family with a beautiful garden that has provided us with "living" nutrients, I can attest to the fact that this abundance is the direct result of the decomposition of plant matter, i.e. "death". Not to mention the "death" of the seed as it germinates under the earth before it can sprout. There is no life without death. This is not the death of eternal separation from God, of course, which was the result of sin, but the transformative power of "laying down" of life for the sake of increase. Also, when wine is made--when anything is fermented or decomposed--it is done through the action of living microbes. These microbes multiply and change the composition of the original substance, but in a sense there is indeed a whole lot of life going on. This is what so many pay for in probiotics. Also, in Jesus' day, wine (and other foods such as milk) were fermented in order to preserve them. This was a common practice in all ancient cultures living in warm climates.

      On a different subject ... WHY did we (those attending seminars and staying at the training centers) just "take notes" when we heard this stuff ? Why did so few of us question Gothard's teaching?

      • grateful September 5, 2013 Reply

        I have thought about that often as well since (why not look deeper.) In fact, I am ashamed to admit, but I would sometimes just ignore something that "didn't see right" in my spirit because the rest was so "rich in truth" & plus, he's so Godly, right? Now, thanks to RG, I have actually taken the time to look up the thousands of references attached to some of the more off the wall teaching and have found very little support from the text - like tearing ligaments trying to stretch. I am just 'grateful' that what I did get from the Basic has been relatively positive in my walk and I was either wise enough or lazy enough to just blow off the rest - probably lazy :) However, what I have discovered (mainly from reading this website) is that the true damage was done to those brought up with these "principles" -

        • grateful September 8, 2013

          So was this information overload tactic intentional and a plot to subvert thoughful reasoning (in your opinion) or is this a case of "deceiving and being deceiced"?

        • MatthewS September 8, 2013

          grateful, not sure if you are asking someone in particular?

        • grateful September 8, 2013

          yes, was curious about your (Matthew) take (just put the comment in the wrong spot) Is this a tactic purposely used to throw people off? intentionally malicious? rather thought provoking when you try to dig down to motives ...

        • MatthewS September 8, 2013

          and that's the problem, how can you know someone's motives? Even our own motives are opaque to ourselves sometimes.

          So what do you think? And the $64,000 follow-up question is: What can you base that on?

      • Anonymous September 7, 2013 Reply

        There was SO MUCH "information" overload in the overhead screens and fill-in-the-blanks in the workbooks that folks were constantly writing and not really processing at that point. So most of the information & anecdotes slipped into the minds without struggle and sunk in deep, below the conscious thought process.

        It was how Dr. Allen said in the above article: "In this seminar I was regularly assaulted by a misuse of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament, on a level that I have never experienced in a public ministry before that time (or since)."

        Most folks would not have the preparation or tools to be able to work through or even see the abuse of scripture on such a large scale.

        • MatthewS September 7, 2013

          Agreed. It's an effective tactic, "information overload."

          Check out this paper (it's a google result, I don't know anything about the source of it) about tactics used by Scientology:

          When a person is on a Scientology course full time, the hours are very long -- usually from around 8:30 AM until 10:30 PM, where the person is exposed to endless Scientology tapes, writings of Hubbard and other Scientology indoctrination techniques with very little time for breaks. If a person is working a nine to five job, they spend their evenings and weekends on course part time. This is just as bad, because the person still has no time to rest. This overloads the person's mind with information since the mind can only handle a certain amount of information at one time. The overload will cause the person to blank out and go into a non-critical trance state where they will just uncritically soak up the information like a sponge.

          (some other items in there are hair-raisingly familiar as well, including sleep deprivation and information control, not letting people read information that disagrees with the group. Gothard's version is to call his "critics" "revilers" and tell his followers not to be wounded by the venom of the revilers. )

  6. LM September 2, 2013 Reply

    Um. Digestion is decomposition. Did Jesus not eat?

    This is a great evaluation. I no longer believe the Bible, but if you are going to say that you base your life on it, you must be consistent. Even as a young teen at the basic seminar, some of these things rubbed me the wrong way, when I didn't fully understand all of it (things like his "rules" for when married couples could have sex). I was in ATI for about 5 years. I am glad that my family gave it up (I hated it, though I tried to be "godly"). We all went to college, and for the most part moved on from this nonsense. I am surprise that my dad, who was a biblical scholar, elder in our church, and usually very careful with doctrine, ever was in support of Gothard's teachings.

    • it is so sad that many have given up totally on believing god and the bible because of gothard's misinterpretations, etc. . I hope and pray all those who have done so can find their way back to Him -- btw, think of it like this...would anyone throw out all their plumbing, toilets, sinks, faucets, etc because one plumber who had no idea what he was doing caused a flood in your house?

  7. Micah September 3, 2013 Reply

    It's crazy that this stuff was written 30 years ago and was so clear even then. Why didn't our parents listen? Could have saved us all a crapload of pain.

    • Julie Anne September 3, 2013 Reply

      Micah: Even today on the internet, information is suppressed very quickly. Look at how TGC and T4G has come to CJ Mahaney's defense amidst years of stories on numerous survivor blogs. The lawsuit is said to be the biggest sex abuse scandal in modern evangelical history. It's a corrupt system. Now take it back 30 years with no internet. It's easy to see how this man has been so influential.

    • GuyS September 3, 2013 Reply

      Micah, what Julie and Tangent said. I am an ex-gothhardite ati father who looks back and is ashamed of allowing myself to get sucked in the madness and what I put my family through. It seemed so right and proper and such an answer to prayer. Also many pastors I knew highly praised the seminars. Apologies if this sounds like excuses.

      This is from Wikipedia (wiki) on bg, (yes the bg w/the Cracker Jack Box phd)"The authority principle is that inward peace results when people respect and honor the authorities (parents, government, etc.) that God has put into their lives. It is based on the idea that God gives direction, protection, and provision through human authorities."(not how Dr Allen would put it)

      It would be nice to link this Dr Allen article to that quote on wiki. But even that would be hard to do. You can see there is a controversy at wiki about bg.

      The quote from wiki is the kind of picture that was painted for me . Sounded biblical to me. "we were sold a package deal. Truth and lies, hope and despair, real and fake..." ( hope that becomes a famous quote from a famous author:)

      I was warned by some after my first seminar. However, even if more had warned me, I might have still been so desperate for answers that I still went to my first seminar with the insidiousness inoculations. (
      Gothard’s Biblical Inoculation July 2011) he is only capitalized, because I could cut and past thereby not defiling my keyboard by showing respect where none is due:)

      Here on RG it has been pointed out that many who joined ati came from dysfunctional families with no healthy extended family support. That is true. That is me, and others I know. I wish I could somehow apologize for all us ex-gothardite cool-aid drinking dads.

      BTW (I hope this is not presumptuous) but it looks like you are doing good. I love your articles, especially "When We Criticize The Church."
      Thanks for asking the question. It gives us parents a invitation to come clean.

    • GuyS September 9, 2013 Reply

      Micah, two days after your question, the second article by Dr Allen was posted. Quote:

      "In 1984 the issues of concern that many of us in Oregon had concerning the Seminar led to a new paper, the one cited in the article by Veinot and Henzel. This paper, and the concerns of others, led many churches in the Pacific Northwest, including my own, to withdraw all active support for the Gothard ministries.6"

      "6. In our church (Gateway Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon) as in many others, the decision was made not to make a public announcement of the dropping of support. Since we knew that many in our church had come to faith through the Seminar, or had received significant spiritual direction through it, we believed we would only cause confusion by attacking the Seminar directly. Instead, we decided no longer to send buses, no longer to buy block tickets, and no longer to make any announcements whatever about the Seminars."

      So, it turns out (unless I misunderstand) that 30 years ago even in Dr Allen's church it was not so clear to the members of his church of "a public announcement of the dropping of support." Of course with perfect 20/20 hindsight Dr Allen perhaps could have done things different. It would be interesting to have the total number of "issues of Concern" letters that were sent out. Evidently (unless I misunderstand) his own church members did not get a copy.

  8. Tangent September 3, 2013 Reply

    Micah, as a parent who became involved with IBLP/ATI in the early 80's; We didn't have the internet to research and learn about Bill Gothard. Our church supplied the bus to go to the city to attend this seminar. Our church encouraged attendance. All those who attended were so enthusiastic. The amount of information given at the seminar was, as some say, "like trying to get a drink out of a firehose". Basically, we were just bowled over by Bill Gothard, too busy with everyday living, and unprepared to study out the lessons of the seminar.

    • Heather September 3, 2013 Reply

      Hey Tangent, thanks for this comment. You kinda made me realize I've been a bit unfair in some of my thoughts towards some of the parents. It's such a pity that the churches did not thoroughly examine these teachings. Of course everyone is responsible for themselves, but still.. Well I guess this is why RG exists in the first place. To expose and help explain the wrongs.

  9. Tangent September 4, 2013 Reply

    Yes! we were sold a package deal. BG is very skilled at persuasion, and would have done very well in sales. Oh, he has done very well in sales! In the religious realm. He led us into ATI with such skill and subtlety. He set us up with the need for "character-based" education (whatever that means), and while we sheeple sat there in his seminar trying to figure out how to do that, he began to "sell" us the answer. Just like the con-man in River City, IO, he created a "need" and then supplied the answer.

  10. Joel September 4, 2013 Reply

    Interesting coincidence: your quoting of Bill Bockelman, good friend, mentor, and an influence to countless other's lives; many of whom would not even know it.

    It just so happens that, after over nine decades of a very full life, Bill passed on to greater life on September 2, 2013 — the same day this was published.

  11. […] Talmud.”2 Near the close of the article, a quotation was made from a paper I wrote in 1984, “Issues of Concern–Bill Gothard and the Bible.” In the article I am very critical of Mr. Gothard’s use of the Bible. Veinot and Henzel observe the […]

  12. Travis Penner September 5, 2013 Reply

    I would hasten to add that the verse in Ephesians 5:12 is taken FAR out of context by Bill Gothard. If read in Context, Paul is admonishing the Ephesian reader to abstain from foolish and false teaching about Christ, which was becoming tragically common in his day (Galatians 5 is another example). These secret things of darkness is probably best described as false doctrine, of which Gothard freely spreads around.

    It is shameful to even teach of these doctrines. (Gnosticsm, Ascetism, and many other popular doctrines that are still even taught today)


  13. […] of Basic Seminars, Knoxville conferences, Wisdom Booklets, and even Character Sketches books and definitions had […]

  14. Jrzrichardson February 15, 2014 Reply

    Excellent article. I attended several seminars about 20 years ago and it is just now dawning on me how unbiblical/out of balance some teachings were. BG branches off frequently into (at best) "spiritual musings" and passes them off as Biblical teachings -- like people "seeking thrills" by eating hot peppers; and something about furniture, we're not supposed to use furniture apart from its purpose or some nonsense. Chairs are made for sitting, etc. It plants in ones' mind, for years to come, "It's a sin to eat a hot pepper"; "I can't eat a meal on the couch, I have to eat it sitting at the table, that's what it's for." It feeds into us the idolatry of following RULES because in our flesh, we feel better for doing so.

  15. Guy Cooksey April 23, 2014 Reply

    I believe my wife and I was helped by the IBLP (basic and advanced). I had just finished seminary and was pastoring my first church (1988). BG's information seemed biblical and useful and it was new to me. However, even then I sensed something was wrong. Dr. Allen has now put it all into perspective for me. When Christian leaders use the Bible to teach a pre-conceived notion it is like playing with fire: it may be useful (as in a camp fire) or very damaging (as in a wild fire)! BG's teaching has done both and for this reason it must be rejected. Christian leaders should only TEACH the Bible in context and from proper exegesis. I find it refreshing and sad at the same time that BG's ministry is now unraveling. I was helped by it, yet I also felt it harmed many people--and now with the sexual harassment allegation coming in like a flood I really see the mis-teaching and abuse clearly.

  16. Larry Dozier June 10, 2018 Reply

    Gentlemen! Although there is only one way to academically interpret all scripture, there are MANY personal applications. And when those applications 'set people free' from from bondage, while enabling them to love God and others more deeply, I think that we should remember that we all teach from our narrow, fallible understanding of scripture. Therefore, as Christians, we need to "Do what Jesus says and follow him, laying down our divisive ways and clothing ourselves with humility and love. And one thing we can all agree upon is that Jesus said, Follow Me"; not follow Dr. So'n'So or any other man except Jesus. And I think we can all agree that Jesus DID HAVE PERFECT THEOLOGY. Shalom!

    • Karen June 27, 2018 Reply

      For a fresh perspective on the interpretation of Scripture, I can recommend a book I am currently reading: The Soul’s Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation by Dr. Mary S. Ford, a teacher at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania.

      As you can see by the book’s author, the arguably oldest continuous interpretive Christian tradition, that of Eastern Orthodoxy, has no problem with qualified women teaching the Scriptures and the faith even to her future priests! However, no Orthodox teacher—whether Bishop, Priest or layperson—has the authority to teach in contradiction to what has always been taught are the parameters of settled dogma, and the general interpretive framework for the Scriptures (which is the Person of Christ as He has been proclaimed in the gospel and Creed), and all interpretations and applications of the Scriptures, all faith and practice, must be consistent with that which has always been taught (dogmatically) within the Orthodox Church throughout her history.

      • kevin June 27, 2018 Reply

        Thanks you for the info on the book and Amen to qualified women teaching Scripture!

      • rob war June 27, 2018 Reply

        Thank-you Karen, downloaded to my Kindle, looking forward to reading it. You pointed out something that is very important in that the Bible should be interpreted as how scripture point to Christ. Jesus Himself said the law and the prophets testify about Him, that He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. With Jesus own statements, we are given the basis of proper Christological used of scripture which I am guessing this book talks about.

    • Matt Arnott July 22, 2018 Reply

      Dude, there are plenty of wonderful, insightful, and knowledgable ladies on this forum!

  17. rob war June 23, 2018 Reply

    Since you started out with "gentlemen", I am assuming that women don't count? All you have done is spit out Bill's standard line here which was "one interpretation, many application". That is a false idea on many fronts. For one thing, one cannot even support that from scripture to begin with. On top of that, the "one interpretation" is usually a hyper-literal" one at that which if followed out to it's logical conclusion, pits the Bible against the Bible which is one of the methods atheists do use to disprove the Bible and the existence of God. Application is based on interpretation so to even say "one interpretation, many applications" is another false premise. To brush off the problems that come from this mode of Bible usage as "we just need to follow Jesus" sounds nice but again sweeps under the rug the problems of Bill's "one interpretation".

  18. rob war July 19, 2022 Reply

    Four steps on how NOT to read the Bible:

    1. find a verse you think justifies your beliefs

    2. Ignore all other verse around the verse (ie. context)

    3. Fight any urge to understand author's intended meaning. This will come with practice.

    4. Apply your own meaning to the verse.

    This is going around social media, When first read, I almost thought Bill wrote these rules himself.

    • kevin July 19, 2022 Reply

      Perhaps Bill lived his life trying to follow these steps, but missed the crucial word "NOT" in the first line. He was the king of prooftexting.

    • JM July 20, 2022 Reply

      I definitely agree. But let's be fair. Bill was and is hardly alone here. MANY preachers and authors do this, and it is not just an Independent Fundamental Baptist issue.

      In my experience, this is entirely common among Christian laity worldwide. I believe it arises from well-meaning people trying to seek and understand the Word of God and either not having the right resources available or avoiding said resources for one reason or another.

      The issue then invades the pulpit and classroom when that same laity, their beliefs unchallenged and unchecked, find themselves put in teaching positions.

      It's a serious problem, and one that I really wish I knew the answer for.

      • rob war July 22, 2022 Reply

        Yes, this applies to many popular "teachers" and ministries. I had a discussion once with someone that liked to listen to Joyce Meyers. This person liked to listen to her because "she knew her Bible very well" because she was always quoting it. Yes, she and the other WoF types do quote the Bible like a machine gun, but the problem is that what they teach is total heresy. I use to read Kenneth Hagin Sr.'s little booklets which are filled with quotes from the Bible, but again, total heresy. The original proof texter of the Bible is Satan himself, who tempted Christ with "quotes" from scripture. All major heresies do start with someone quoting Bible verses to support what they are trying to teach. Now there shouldn't be a problem just to quote the Bible at all. We all should do that, but the problem is that one line zingers all over the place are usually taken out of context and are misleading to the young and inexperienced.

        • kevin August 1, 2022


          " I had a discussion once with someone that liked to listen to Joyce Meyers. This person liked to listen to her because "she knew her Bible very well" because she was always quoting it."

          This reminds me of my friend who spent a couple of decades "learning" from Gothard. He commented how he really loved the teachings, because he had a Bible verse or two referenced with every teaching. The problem is that he never bothered to check to verify that said verse actually supported the teaching. When the teachings were bright shiny new Biblical insights, the verses never actually supported his view, obvious to anyone who approached them with their critical thinking cap on.

          Yet, to those who drank deep of the Koolaide, in their minds they will still look at the referenced verse and somehow believe that it supports the teaching. You usually can't reason with them, although it is not impossible. I have had some success in having former Gothardites recognize that the supporting verses don't actually offer any support at all and were usually either taken out of context or misunderstood. Sometimes there is not even a context to twist and the verse is completely unrelated in any way.

  19. rob war August 30, 2022 Reply

    came across this brilliant quote from the late Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, of the Orthodox Church. In case you have not heard of him, CT had a very nice article about him and his passing:

    The quote is this: "We see that it is not the task of Christianity of provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge but the cause of our wonder."

    Bill Gothard reduced the Christian faith to simplistic answers to problems and reduced the Bible to point blank answers that he promised would always be successful. There is nothing about a relationship with God except to get something from God. Bill teaches moralistic therapeutic deism basically.

    • David S. Knecht Sr. September 9, 2022 Reply

      I once saw Kallistos Ware interviewed. He seemed like a very good man, much like Father Zossima in The Brothers karamazov. Even the CT quote sounds like something Father Zossima would say.

      • rob war September 27, 2022 Reply

        Yes, Metropolitan Kallistos was from everything I've read about him, isa holy and devout man. But what he is quoted here is the opposite of what Bill Gothard reduced the Christian faith to which is easy answers to everything under the sun which is more in line with MTD or moralist therapeutic deism and that is not a relationship with the living and loving God that Metropolitan Kallistos was talking about in this quote or in his other writings and books.

        • David S. Knecht Sr. September 28, 2022

          Perhaps the wisest words about easy Christianity, came from C.S. Lewis: “The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’

  20. rob war October 3, 2022 Reply
    My quote was not about easy Christianity but reducing Christianity to easy answers which Bill Gothard does. This is an very interesting article about quoting CS Lewis and the tendency to quote Lewis to support anything and everything.

  21. David S. Knecht Sr. October 4, 2022 Reply

    In the Patheos link, Josh Parks seemed fussier about “weaponizing” Lewis than Lewis himself would be. Is Lewis sometimes quoted in ways which do not perfectly align with an author's point? Undoubtedly so. Isn't that the mild price of popularity? The freshman rhetoric student might lose points for such a misdemeanor, but so what?

    The Lewis quote above fits our topic because it aligns with what Gothard taught in his “eight callings” material. It was a narrative of what we should expect from the dedication to Christ which Lewis exhorted. Lewis said to give Christ all. Gothard explained eight dimensions of that process.

    • rob war October 4, 2022 Reply

      I don't know anything about 8 callings or dimensions of Bill and I don't want to know. It was been brought up here, more than once, that Bill Gothard did not like CS Lewis. Any connection between Bill and CS Lewis is only by you. The patheos article was about "men without chest" quote that has been used by many to claim Lewis supports a macho man type of masculinity as promoted by the likes of TGC crowd etc. What he was saying and you are blowing off is that the Lewis quote from "Abolition of Man" was not at all about macho man masculinity. But misquoting either Lewis or Bible seems to be part and parcel with people like Bill Gothard. Maybe you see nothing wrong with this, but it ends up making the Bible say things it really doesn't. Just look at the recent article by Bill about climate change. One doesn't defeat faulty science with faulty bible quoting and much of it painted God as using the weather to smack people down and punish them. Pretty sad timing on this considering Hurricane Ian and what just happen in your State of Florida.

      • David S. Knecht Sr. October 5, 2022 Reply

        Shining light on the teaching of Bill Gothard is the stated purpose of this blog. To participate, Gothard's teachings should interest us. In this case, the Gothard teaching about callings happens to overlap with a C.S. Lewis teaching. But in his writing, Gothard did not mention Lewis. He had other fish to fry.

        The Abolition of Man was three good essays by Lewis which Gothard never mentioned, so far as I know.

        In Gothard's weather essay, I counted nine Bible references. Where did Gothard err? Which of the nine passages was faulty? What can you illuminate for us?

        Having "weathered" a hurricane on Oahu in 1982, plus four consecutive Florida hurricanes in 2004, I can affirm that they are effective at smacking down, whether or not Gothard says so.

    • rob war October 5, 2022 Reply


      why do you still comment here? If you are die-hard Bill fan, why bother? If you think everyone here just "hates" Bill, why bother? You need to ask yourself these questions because what seems to come out is harassment and trolling. Just because this blog is basically open and barely monitored doesn't mean someone should be commenting. I wonder if you really ever read the hundreds of testimonies here on the harm Bill's teaching has had on their lives, education, family, and faith or do you think everything is just a pack of lies by people that "just hate Bill". You have made these sorts of sweeping statements before. Ask yourself honestly if Bill really has helped you as much as you think. You do not have to answer me, you need to answer honestly to yourself and your family. I don't care to have your answers because I am tired of you bothering me here because it borders on trolling and harassment. Here is a great article about sweeping rash judgements on others.

  22. David S. Knecht Sr. October 6, 2022 Reply

    Indeed, Feser wrote a good blog entry about rash judgement. How much rash judgement has been indulged on this very blog? The stated purpose is to shine light. What is the proportion of light to darkness you read here?

    Why do I contribute? I believe in good works. Don't you?

  23. kevin October 11, 2022 Reply

    Rob said:

    "Just look at the recent article by Bill about climate change."

    Yeah, that was pretty nutty. It also shows us that Bill is still up to the same nonsense, suggesting that the extreme weather events, which have affected millions, are God's judgement. Thanksfully, I don't believe that more than a handful of people listen to him anymore.

  24. kevin October 11, 2022 Reply

    I do wish that there was a section of Recovering Grace for general comments, but since this article is where the most recent comments were, I'll post my comments here.

    I was just checking out the IBLP website and noticed in their News section the report on their recent family gatherings. The east coast gathering appeared to maybe have about 50 people.

    Then I took a look at the west coast family gathering and it was even smaller.

    I guess the days of filling up stadiums are long gone.

    Now, I know that there is another Gothard cheerleading site out there that would claim that the current situation at IBLP is because Bill is no longer leading. But, if he were still at the head of things, I think those groups would be even smaller. These days people tend to keep their families away from individuals who have been accused of the things which Bill has.

  25. rob war January 31, 2023 Reply

    Any thoughts on Jinger's new book?

    • kevin February 2, 2023 Reply

      "Any thoughts on Jinger's new book?"

      I am very proud of her for writting this book. I watched a couple of interviews she gave about the book and in which she talked about the contents. She is very articulate and communicates very well the anxiety and damage caused by Bill Gothard's teachings.

      It sounds like this was a very difficult book for her to write, but felt that it was important. She sounds like she is on firm ground now, with a solid understanding of the paralyzing damage that legalism can cause.

      She speaks about how the rules that her family followed were not biblical, but the ideas of one man, Bill Gothard.

      Have you read the book Rob? What are your thoughts? I am more of a audio book person and will try to get an audio copy when I can.

      I was considering make a post on that other site with the Gothard fans, but they are so sick over there. As one would expect, they are already doing their best to throw her under the bus, as they did with all of the women who came forward sharing how Bill harassed them.

      It seems that Recovering Grace is not very active anymore, but perhaps her book will spur some commentary once again. Perhaps everyone has gone to FB or something, but I don't do FB, so I'm not sure.

      Maybe it is quieted down so much because Bill has been deposed from IBLP and is fading away. But, there are still many thousands who are trapped in the man made rules that he taught, not realizing that they are from a man and not from God.
      So, I think that there is still a role that RG can play. I do hope that they at least do an article about her book with links to where people can purchase it.

      It appears that from Jinger's Instagram bio there is a link to get the book, and I know that it is also on Amazon. I would post a link, but I have noticed that lately any links posted on RG comments causes the comment to never get posted for some reason, so I won't.

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