Four Pre-Digital Reviews of Gothard’s Theology

20 May 2014, 07:00



This post provides the full text of four articles referenced in the Recovering Grace (RG) article "Early Warnings of a False Authority." Please click the links to read the first three articles.

We note that Dr. Patterson amended his article on May 15, 2014. He laments Bill Gothard's moral failings, but concludes: "This renders the outcome of recent days tragic but negates no biblical truth elucidated [by Gothard]." Patterson's response may deserve an article of its own, but that is for another day.

Patterson, Paige. “The Theology of Bill Gothard,” The Theological Educator, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Vol. 6, no. 2, Spring 1976, pp. 11–13.

Lee, Sr., George F. “The Gothard Institutes,” The Theological Educator, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, no. 28, Spring 1984, pp. 5–8.

Fisher, G. R. “Is Anything Wrong with Bill Gothard’s Teachings?” Journal of Pastoral Practice, Jay Adams, editor, Vol. VII, No. 2, 1984, pp. 35–45.

Henke, David. “A Summary Report: Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles,” for Edgewood Baptist Church, September, 1993. This article is republished below with the author's permission.


Bill Gothard’s Institute In Basic Life Principles

by David Henke, September 1993


In 1985, a colleague gave me access to his files so that I could fill gaps in my own files. One of the files that he had was on Bill Gothard’s ministry. I copied it for the sake of having it. I had a higher opinion of Gothard’s ministry at the time. I have spent countless hours researching the subjects of performance-based attempts at Christian living, legalism, and the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, and, as a result, I have changed my opinion of the seminars. My fifteen years of experience in studying cults surely had some influence on me. Whether that background was good or not I will leave to the reader.

The issues fall into two categories: the message and the messenger. The message is public and, therefore, open to public discussion. The question of the messenger’s failure to live up to his teaching is something that has already been taken through the process of Matthew 18 without satisfactory results, according to those who tried to bring accountability. Therefore, the issue of the messenger is now at the stage of taking it to the whole church. In our case that is Edgewood Baptist Church.

I see four areas of concern regarding the ministry and teachings of Bill Gothard. First, there is a heavy orientation toward spiritual performance to achieve “success” in the Christian life. Second, many of Gothard’s teachings are, I believe, unbiblical or spiritually unhealthy. Third, Gothard avoids and suppresses publicity. Fourth, I believe Bill Gothard disqualified himself from further ministry in the late 1970s.

Gothard’s original organization, the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (IBYC), was later  renamed the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Henceforth I will refer to the organization as the Institute or use one of the abbreviations. Interpretation of scripture, Institute literature, and personal experiences are reported as I, or the source, understood them. This paper will serve to summarize information already available, which is very little, with references to those resources that provide greater detail. See the bibliography for a list of what is available.

I. Performance Preoccupation

Before discussing the illustrations of the problem in Gothard’s teaching, it is important to explain some concepts at the root of performance preoccupation.

Over the last couple of years, my ministry to the cults led me to study the methods of mind control. Mind control is like the capstone on the pyramid of performance. At the base of the pyramid is what Jeff VanVonderen calls a shame-based identity and system of relationships. The person who suffers from shame sees himself as defective, lacking love and acceptance. He constantly strives to meet these needs. The effort is through inappropriate means, i.e., more performance. Because this doesn’t satisfy, the result is more shame, fatigue, and a sense of spiritual deadness.

When Adam fell, we all became defective (total depravity). This affected our ability to give and receive love. We were estranged from God because of our sin; therefore, virtually every religion in human history has sought through illegitimate means (works righteousness or legalism) to earn God’s acceptance. But God gives His love unconditionally (“While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly” Romans 5:6).

Some Christians who try to “earn” God’s acceptance learn this behavior. Early in life they experience the conditional love, shaming messages, and overly strong control of their parents. Children need the love and acceptance of their parents so much that, when it is withheld or given conditionally, the child will unconsciously interpret this as meaning they are not loved because they are defective. When this message is internalized the child will seek to perform for his sense of acceptance.

Another means by which Christians learn to “earn” God’s acceptance is through simple laziness. It is much easier to accept the teaching of a spiritual leader as one’s own than to do the work necessary to find biblical truth and balance (1 Cor. 1:12). A prime responsibility of any spiritual leader is to teach individual responsibility.

Legalism can grow out of the ground of shame-based relationships. Because performance is external, how things appear becomes more important than how they really are. There is usually a list of do’s and don’ts that qualify the legalist to be accepted or rejected. Legalists can be doctrinaire, rigid, unmerciful, and unforgiving.

Legalism is better characterized as an attitude than a set of beliefs. The focus is on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law, hence the application of biblical teaching about Christian living will lead to uniformity among people. The first things to die among legalists is the joy of life, freedom, and a personal relationship with God. When this joy of life dies, living for God becomes tiring because it is now being done out of obligation rather than love. The emotions of fear and guilt take a devastating toll among Christians who try to perform for acceptance. They fear that they will fail and be rejected by others, and their guilt never seems to be forgiven. Romans 8:1 is living water for such people.

Legalism, in turn, is the ground out of which spiritual abuse arises. “Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining, or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment…. Spiritual abuse can occur when a leader uses his or her spiritual position to control or dominate another person…. power is used to bolster the position or needs of a leader…” (The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, p. 20). 


Capping the pyramid is mind control, or brainwashing, which is pervasive in cults. All of the above conditions exist in extremity. The victim has unconsciously given his will to the control of the group or leader.

Emotionally hurting people are very vulnerable to such systems because they are more desperate in their search for acceptance, significance, strength, solutions, and supportive relationships. Legalists really think they have these things and offer them gladly. Legalists never think of themselves as legalists, but see themselves as committed Christians. In the end, legalists offer more performance instead of grace and the result is often broken relationships, emotional breakdown, spiritual disillusionment, and a lot of shame. Then, when the victims verbalize their feelings, they are blamed for having a spiritual problem of rebellion, pride, or bitterness. In other words, more shame. Incidentally cults always blame the victims for their victimization. The truth is that the counsel just did not work.

In my research on legalism vs. grace, and works vs. faith, I found numerous people in the counseling field who said that their case-loads increased significantly after a Gothard seminar. Wilfred Bockelman, in his book Gothard: The Man and His Ministry, an Evaluation, said, “I remember one evening I was talking with a group of people from one church who had all gone to the seminar and discussed with them the pros and cons of the Institute. One of them came to my wife afterwards and said, ‘I didn’t go to the Institute myself, but I just wanted to hear what it was all about. You know, I work for the county mental health clinic, and I know from past experience that we are the ones who get stuck with the people whose thinking and lives have been wrecked by this kind of approach’.” (p. 18).

Dr. Ronald Allen describes Gothard’s approach as “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” (“Issues of Concern—Bill Gothard and the Bible: A Report,” p. 2).

Dr. Dan Allender tells us why this approach is so popular and attractive. He said, “Fallen human nature wants control and guarantees, and any system or model of change that offers relief through the faithful execution of clear steps touches a basic desire of the fallen soul” (The Wounded Heart, p. 174).

I read several books in which reference was made to a “seminar” which was a serious source of dysfunction in Christian living. Having attended the IBYC seminars several times, I felt certain that the authors were alluding to Gothard. When I spoke with them, they confirmed my deductions.

II. Problem Teachings

Having dealt with cults for fifteen years, I know that there is no new doctrine under the sun. Teachings proclaimed as “new insights” into the scripture have always been used to attract and hold proselytes. Once in such a group, the idea of ever leaving causes one to think of going back to a condition of spiritual deadness where these new insights do not exist. This is the impetus behind much of the spiritual elitism in such groups. Every doctrine has existed before in church history—whether true or false. The only thing genuinely new is our own personal insight.

“…Bill Gothard himself has stated in several seminars ‘Truth out of balance always leads to heresy’.” (Term paper “Bill Gothard and Dispensationalism”, for Graduate Seminar in Theology TH 560, by Rev. Robert J. Sheridan, April, 1984, Calvary Bible College)

This area of concern involves a list of more serious teachings which I believe are unbalanced and/or unbiblical. They also bear the marks of a legalistic focus on external performance. Because of the space involved I will deal with several areas while referring the reader to other resources. Some problem teachings include:

1) Authority and submission teaching (“Chain of Command”) and the related “Umbrella of Protection.” (See discussion below.)

2) Generational curses, or sins of the forefathers, and the problems passed on to adopted children. (For information ask for “Bethany Christian Services Responds To Bill Gothard’s ‘Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend To Have More Conflicts’.” and Rev. Richard Fisher’s article “Deliver Us From Deliverance.”)

3) His confused and restrictive view on divorce and remarriage. (See Tim Crater’s article in The Journal of Pastoral Practice.)

4) His imposition of an Old Testament culture and law on the Church and family.

5) His hermeneutics, or the principles ofr biblical interpretation. (Find quotes by Allen and Sheridan below. For further insight, seek out the articles by Dr. Ronald Allen and Rev. Robert J. Sheridan.)

Other areas of concern where research materials were not available include the Institute’s medical counsel and homeschooling teaching.

What material I do have contains the notes and comments of a pastor who attended a seminar in which Gothard’s material was taught. One of his notes reads: “Home education is God’s plan for every family to educate their children. Deut. 6:7” If that is the case, are parents who send their children to a traditional school committing a sin? Is there evidence that this dogmatic assertion leads to a legalistic mindset or spiritual elitism? Dogmatism about such things usually does where the human personality is involved.

I believe Gothard’s teachings are unhealthy because they involve the most intimate relationships. If Gothard’s dogmatism in these areas is not balanced, or is simply wrong, then marriages and families can be destroyed, and physical, emotional, and spiritual health can be seriously harmed. Dr. Dan Allender said, “Repeated exposure to inaccurate information about internal realities leads to a mistrust of one’s own feelings and intuition” (The Wounded Heart, p. 120).

The question we must ask ourselves regarding the seriousness of the problem is the same one Rev. Sheridan asked in his paper. He said, “As research was done for this study numerous individuals were contacted, both theologians, past staff members, and current staff members. After one conversation during which some of these areas of weakness were noted, I asked ‘What positive things do you feel the Institute is doing today?’, for the purpose of being able to balance what I have to say. The response came back ‘Well, I know of many people who have been helped.’ But you will find nowhere in Scripture where it says, ‘If a man is doing good, overlook the problems.’ My problem is that trying to find out the good while these problems are not being dealt with brings us to a place where we begin to have an ethical problem, saying the end justifies the means” (p. 20).

A couple of other problem areas in Gothard’s teaching include his views on the order of service in church worship and rhythm in music. In his Men’s Institute Curriculum, Gothard dogmatically teaches that God has a proper order of worship, or liturgy. He titles the order of service “God’s Order,” clearly implying that any other order of service is not of God. The Bible says virtually nothing about an order of service. Gothard surely must know this, so why would he say such a thing? This is an external focus by the whole congregation.

Gothard has taught for many years that certain kinds of music are not spiritually healthy. I am not talking about the message in the lyrics, but the music itself. He contends that the three parts of music—melody, harmony and rhythm—appeal to human spirit, soul, and body. Most pernicious is the beat which appeals to the flesh. I do confess to tapping my toe to a snappy beat; however, I do not find scripture anywhere saying anything about musical rhythm. I believe music, whether it is heavy on melody or beat, is amoral. It is like a vehicle which can carry a missionary to the mission field or a bank robber to his escape. The Christian should focus his discernment on more important issues like the message in the lyrics.

Following are comments on Gothard’s teaching on the chain of command, generational sins, his hermeneutical problems, and the apparent return to Old Testament Law.

The Chain of Command

In the very brief exposure I have had to people who have followed Gothard’s teachings in these areas, the results have fallen into three general categories. First are those who are rigid in their relationships, legalistic, and frequently lacking in mercy and compassion for those at the bottom of the “chain of command.”

Second are those who, having followed the prescriptions, find their relationships and their emotional and spiritual health damaged by the strain, sometimes to the point that they leave the relationship or drive off those closest to them.

Third are those Christians who were spiritually mature and discerning who were able to glean the good material and reject the bad. Interestingly these three categories are about the same as those that Bockelman reported in his book (p. 141).

The chief fallacy of the chain of command is that it is based on a relationship of power. Those at the top of the chain seldom see a problem with the system, because it serves their perceived role. Those on the bottom, however, must put up with whatever comes their way, because to chafe under the stress would be labeled rebellion. Dr. Samuel Schultz, former Institute board member, resigned from the board when it became obvious that he could not effect policy changes to incorporate proper accountability standards. According to the Religious News Service, Dr. Schultz “raised serious questions about the biblical basis for the Seminar’s chain of command (authority) principle and its application in practice to IBYC leadership and administration procedures” (Waite, p. 94).

Wilfred Bockelman said, “It seems that Gothard fails to adequately present the need for relationships with children, positing instead the proper role and proper discipline that is necessary to get a desired response from the children. The preoccupation is with control, predictability, the proper behavior instead of the need for nurturing relationships in which learned behavior and attitudes come from models, not coercive manipulation” (p. 83, emphasis in original).

Tony Campolo, in his book The Power Delusion, describes the relationship of coercive power and love as existing in inverse proportion to one another in any relationship. To the extent that a person is loving (vulnerable) he is not using coercive power (invulnerable), and to the extent that he is using coercive power (invulnerable) he is not loving (vulnerable). Power provides invulnerability whereas love is willing to be vulnerable for the sake of the one loved. Love and power exist together in any healthy relationship but love dominates and is the motivating factor.

This relationship is illustrated by the following chart.


The relationship of power and love is illustrated in the difference between Christ’s first and second comings. He made Himself vulnerable in His first coming and exercised coercive power only once, when He cleansed the temple. At His second coming Christ will come in power.

When Christ cleansed the temple, He gave us an interesting insight into God’s attitude toward those who use His Name for their own purposes. The moneychangers were to serve God’s people by providing a legitimate service and thus help them on toward God. Instead they used God’s house and His name to meet their own needs and thus hindered the people’s access to God. This is what made Christ angry.

The chain of command is legitimate in the workplace, the military, or the government. However, in churches and families it has much less legitimacy. The reason is that, in the chain of command, the operative word is command. In the chain of command, the focus and purpose of the relationship is the task, whereas, in the family and church, the purpose and focus is on the person. Commanding is not how loving relationships should be handled. It is contrary to the very definition of love, which is to desire the best for the loved one without regard to the costs to oneself. This definition contains a power element in a healthy relationship, but is basically submissive of personal preference to the other person. When that power element functions we could call it tough love, but it is motivated by love.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:21 that we are to submit ourselves to one another. This is a love relationship that he called us to in verses 1 and 2. He goes on to comment specifically on the submission of wives, children, and servants to those over them because of Christ. It is “natural” in the above relationships for wives to submit and for children and servants to obey. It is not “natural” for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. When husbands use Ephesians 5:22 and 6:1 to force their wives and children into subjection to their authority, they are using coercive power and, therefore, they are not loving them as Christ did. Each person should focus on their own verses. With Gothard, the focus is on those at the bottom of the chain of command: women and children, the most easily controlled. That focus is very easily distorted toward their submission instead of their being equipped, enabled, empowered, and freed to fulfill God’s will in their lives.

Wilfred Bockelman said, “Actually one could just as easily focus on the duty of the husband to ‘love his wife as Christ loved the church.’ Instead of relying on the husband’s position of authority to bring about an orderly, happy home, perhaps the husband ought to draw his family to obedience by the power of his love for them. Indeed, this is the model Christ offers: ‘We love Him because He first loved us,’ not because of His position of authority” (p. 106).

Dr. Ronald Allen, Professor of Hebrew Scripture at Western Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon, said Gothard teaches “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… 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 husbands; 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” (p. 6).

Christians, and Baptists in particular, have fought hard for the priesthood of the believer as a foundational biblical concept in the relationship between God and His people. In this doctrine every believer is the equal of any and every other believer. There is no one who is bigger, better, or more powerful in the eyes of God. Those who lead must have moral authority rather than positional authority. Paul had positional authority as an apostle, but his real authority was in his life and teaching. Because he taught the truth and lived his life consistent with what he taught, he had moral authority and, therefore, people were willing to submit to his counsel. Paul commended the Bereans for evaluating his teaching (Acts 17:11). He advised the Corinthians to follow him as he followed the Lord (2 Cor. 11:1), which clearly implies that they were free to not follow him if his life was not exemplary. This is two-way accountability, mutual submission. Gothard does not believe in mutual submission.

In his term paper, Rev. Sheridan said, “In the Old Testament you find this concept related by the Institute in seeing a person’s position over his personality. You could have the high priest be a reprobate, but he was still the high priest, and therefore to receive the respect and honor due him. In the New Testament, however, you find position comes to individuals because of character. According to the authority and chain-of-command material in the Basic Seminar book, it would seem that if you had a pastor who was reprobate, you would seek to appeal to him as your authority, but still respect him in his position. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 teach us that position is not always to be reverenced, no matter what the personality…. The problem here is not that there is no benefit to the Institute’s principle, the problem is that it is not a universal principle and if held to rigidly would detract from the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our life” (p. 12).

Gothard’s chain of command teaching leads to problems involving Christian unity, violation of conscience, abuse of authority, false shame, false guilt, legalism, and distortion of accountability. Those under abusive authority who believe in Gothard’s chain of command teaching will suffer under the heavy weight of false guilt when the teaching doesn’t produce the expected results. An abusive authority will place the guilt on the unsubmissive person who is “not under authority”—this is called shaming. The guilt properly belongs with the abusive authority and the teachers of a false system.

Gothard would say that such abuse is an opportunity to suffer for Jesus. There is some legitimacy to that view; however, where does Gothard talk about the wonderful opportunity for the abusive authority to be held accountable? Accountability is one-way-only in Gothardism. Those on top hold those below accountable. Those on the bottom cannot hold authority accountable. In fifteen years of dealing with cults I have learned a fundamental truth about authority: without two-way accountability, power will corrupt, accountability will become a one-way street, and those on the bottom have no recourse but to suffer in silence. A counselor who tells someone that they should “suffer for Jesus” without also holding the abuser responsible becomes an enabler to the abuser. The abused person will probably accept their negative feelings about their plight as being the sins of pride, rebellion, etc. Hence the victim is blamed for being the victim.

James and Phyllis Alsdurf address this unequal power relationship in their book Battered into Submission. They say, “Fittingly Gothard’s examples deal only with suffering on the part of women — not men. In fact despite calls for mutual submission in Eph. 5:21, Gothard says, ‘The philosophy of mutual submission is a very subtle way of eliminating power. You do this by equally distributing power to every person; thus no one has any more authority than anyone else. This is the basis of humanism in which each person is his own God’. For Gothard suffering for righteousness sake is not a mutual call to husband and wife” (Battered Into Submission, by James and Phyllis Alsdurf, p. 88, quoting Virginia Mollenkott’s dialogue with Bill Gothard in Faith at Work, 1975, p. 26).

Job’s “friends” followed the mechanistic, cause and effect doctrine that Gothard teaches. Job could not have known the debate that was going on between Satan and God over Job’s faithfulness. Job’s friends knew even less. Dr. Allen saw this mechanistic approach to human personality and spirituality when he noted that Gothard makes “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” (Allen, “Issues”, p. 7).

An obvious example includes the IBLP alumni booklet for 1993 (Ten Reasons for Alumni to Be Encouraged) which talks about “How to Experience Instant Freedom From Fear, Anger, and Depression” (p. 8). Instant freedom? God is certainly able to deliver His people instantly from any of these problems; however, biblically and historically we see Him working in and through you and me to minister to one another. Instant solutions are very attractive—and usually very wrong. They lend themselves to sensationalism. Without a balancing comment, one could conclude that if anyone follows the three steps at any time they will always experience instant freedom.

On page 225 of the Rebuilder’s Guide, Gothard says that one of the consequences of divorced people remarrying in the church is “physical weakness, sickness and death.” His support of this is 1 Cor. 11:30, which deals with the Lords Supper, not divorce and remarriage. He further states that if divorced people are allowed to teach they will tell “shameful details about their first marriage in order to get sympathy.” (Rebuilder’s Guide. IBYC, pp. 225, 226).

Single young people are taught to submit to their parents’ counsel because God uses the parents in the chain of command to guide the singles in their decisions. The wisdom of parents is valuable, but is not a law of God.

Gothard always cites success stories to substantiate his teaching, leading to a theology by anecdote. However, he never cites the failures. Can he be refuted by anecdote? In my conversations with former IBYC Headquarters staff, one said that Gothard would tell success stories involving people who were listening to him. These people wondered who he was talking about. It certainly wasn’t them. Also, these former staffers told me that Gothard would continue telling these stories even after the person involved had experiencedspiritual and emotional shipwreck because of the teaching. There are numerous people in our own church who could also refute Gothard by anecdote, i.e., their own experience.

Should a single Christian man whose parents are not Christian obey their counsel if they tell him to stay home rather than do summer missionary work in a foreign country? Submission to such counsel would be wrong because Psalm 1:1 says we should not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Such a decision is between the individual and God. It is also a case of the gospel being held hostage to the “wisdom” of non-Christians.

Generational Sins

This cause and effect approach to human personality is also seen in teaching on generational sins. Gothard teaches that the sins of the forefathers (ancestral bondage) attach to their offspring. Christian children must learn what sins (strongholds) their biological parents had and confess them in order to be free of them. He uses Exodus 20:5 as his scriptural basis. However, there is no basis in scripture to say that a Christian must confess someone else’s sin. What is meant is that the sinful influence of a parent impacts their children who imitate their modeled behavior. There is no genetic or spiritual jurisdiction transmitted to succeeding generations.

Jesus disproves the theory in John 9. His disciples ask, ‘“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him’” (vss. 2, 3).

Ezekiel 18 is very clear that “the soul that sins shall die” for his own sin, not for that of another. The impact of this teaching on the adopted child will be far more damaging than the imagined generational sins. An adopted child will come to see himself as “damaged goods” or as cursed. He could also see himself as having a handicap in his relationship with God.

Hermeneutics (The principles of Biblical interpretation)

“In religion, what damned error, but some sober brow will bless it, and approve it with a text, hiding the grossness with fair ornament” (The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene 2 , quoted in The Wittenburg Door, April 1973, p. 18).

Dr. Earl Radmacher told me of a conversation he had with Gothard where Bill said, “You expect me to be an exegete. I’m not an exegete. I’m not a teacher. I don’t have the gift of teaching.” Dr. Radmacher said. “Well, for God’s sake, Bill, why don’t you stop teaching then? Why don’t you read James 3? It says, ‘Stop being many teachers, my brother,s knowing you will receive the stricter judgment’.”

I think it best to repeat to you the comments of Dr. Ronald Allen and Rev. Robert Sheridan on the subject of Gothard’s hermeneutical standards. They have said it better than I could have. Gothard’s hermeneutics are of paramount importance because if he doesn’t understand how to interpret scripture by the literal, contextual, historical, and grammatical method then his conclusions from scripture will be skewed. In other words, Gothard would be putting words in God’s mouth.

Dr. Allen, Th.D., Professor of Hebrew Scripture at Western Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon, had this to say in his “Issues” paper:

“The 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)” (p. 1). “But I do raise these issues to demonstrate that — 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” (p. 2).

“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 programatic approach which is mechanical and not personal, mechanistic and not dynamic. Gothard does not really teach the Scripture; he really uses the Scripture t o fit into his own categories” (p. 3).

Rev. Sheridan also had much to say about Gothard’s hermeneutics:

“…you find a basic hermeneutical weakness where material is developed and disseminated which moves from experience to doctrine. The testing point of where a principle truly is from God rests strongly on a number of illustrations in people’s lives which say ‘It worked for me.’ Narrative passages are taken from historical incidents and projected into being universal principles without sufficient corroborating Scripture” (p. 20, 21).

“In an alumni supplement which came out in 1983 a new ‘principle’ was shared with pastors and laymen alike. This idea was later more fully developed through material titled ‘Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend To Have More Conflicts’…. The basic thought is that just as physical and medical characteristics are passed down to our children, so ‘spiritual tendencies’ are passed down from generation to generation…. What do you think happens to all of this material when we put it to the hermeneutical test? We find that it is strong on psychological assertions and illustrations from people who have tried it, but weak on any Scriptural base. Rather than this new discovery of spiritual genes being passed on to us, could we not simply see in Ex. 20:5 the intimation that the consequences of our sin will affect those who come after us” (pp. 15, 16).

Gothard devotes much attention to the eyes. In the 1993 IBLP alumni booklet article entitled “How To Inspire Hope And Direction In Others By The Light In Your Eyes,” he says, “The eyes are the window to the soul. When Christ and His Word are living in your heart, there will be brightness in your eyes.” Isn’t this a genetic and personality trait? The eyes being a window to the soul is a metaphor, not theology, and it is certainly not a biblical expression. Pity the poor person who is not born with these advantages. The scriptures Gothard uses to substantiate his point are out of context in one case (2 Cor. 4:6) and actually refutes his point in the other (Matthew 5:16). Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our good works are the light that is to shine, not our eyes.  (IBLP 1993 Alumni booklet.)

In Bill’s letter of acceptance to ATIA students at the Indianapolis Apprenticeship Training center he says, “…if there is not the true radiance of Christ shining through our eyes, others will know it, and our ministry will be diminished.” Again, he focuses on the eyes, which are immaterial to the issue he is discussing.

Returning to the Old Testament

An important principle to remember when studying the Old Testament is that it is an old covenant between God and man. God instituted a new covenant, or testament, to govern our relationship with Him. Thus, something commanded in the Old Testament that is not repeated in the New Testament is probably not meant for the New Testament believer.

Another important principle to keep in mind is that just because the Bible mentions something does not mean that it is commanded. This is especially important when we study the Old Testament and the Jewish culture in which it is set. Jewish cultural patterns contain rich lessons for us, but they are not a model we are commanded to imitate.

Regarding this Rev. Robert Sheridan stated, “The material of the Institute has two major areas of weakness. First, you have a concept that the Old Testament was God’s ideal society for us today…” (p. 20, 21).

The Hebrew culture was patriarchal. The patriarch had great power and his family was usually an extended one of several generations living together. If this was the ideal arrangement, then where does the New Testament teach the Gentile converts to observe it?

Regarding the Old Testament Law, Rev. Sheridan also said,

“Several answers, all evasive in character, have been given to the question: Is the Christian believer under the law? For the most part they are based upon wrong or inadequate definitions of law. a. Some argue that the believer is under the moral law, but not under the ceremonial law. b. Others say that we are under the moral law, but not under its penalties. c. Still others assert that we are under the moral law as a rule of life, but not as a way of salvation…. We will not be misled by any of the above erroneous views if we hold fast to a complete definition of the divine law, namely, that the law of God in the Bible is one law, including moral, ceremonial and civil elements, and inseparable from its penalties. In summary we may say that for one to be ‘under the law’ in the Biblical sense is to be under the law of God – the entire Mosaic legal system in its indivisible totality – subject to its commands and liable to its penalties” (Sheridan, p. 10, quoted from Alva J. McClain, Law and Grace, pp. 41-42).

An example of following the Old Testament Law is provided in this comment by Dr. Allen,

“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–dairy 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!… 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” (“Issues”, p. 7).

The Elders of the New Durham Chapel in New Jersey reviewed the teachings and other problems surrounding the Institute and wrote a report of their findings and recommendations. Regarding Gothard’s teaching on the Old Testament ceremonial law they concluded,

“Mr. Gothard currently teaches that the believer today is excluded from the sacrificial system but is under the entire ceremonial law. The Christian’s obligation to obey the dietary regulations and the sexual commandments are heavily emphasized at the IBYC Pastor’s Seminar. Mr. Gothard takes laws given to Israel and mandates them upon the believer today in complete violation of 1 Timothy 4:4–5, Hebrews 13:4, and Acts 11:1–10. Consequently, Mr. Gothard holds to and propagates an erroneous view of the Old Testament Law in the context of the New Testament Church” (“A Summary and Recommendation of the Ministries of Bill Gothard,” New Durham Chapel, Piscataway, NJ, June 1986, p. 3).

III. Control of Information

There has been an avoidance and suppression of publicity throughout the history of the Institute. There are other avoidance and control problems of concern, such as the lack of direct Bible teaching in favor of his own material, the prohibition of tape recorders, and the request that the material not be discussed while at the seminar. All material is dogmatically taught even where scripture is silent, thereby implying that it is unquestionably correct. These factors, together with the sheer volume of material being covered, create an atmosphere where critical thinking and evaluation is hindered.

For example, it is reminiscent of The Way International cult’s Power for Abundant Living course. In that 36-hour videotaped course, questions are not allowed until the end, and then they must be in writing—virtually assuring that no other students will be infected by contradictory ideas. There should be no real restraints on the evaluation of information or ideas, pro or con. Control of Information is one of the most important mind control mechanisms. Among the spiritual abuse methods listed below, the “Can’t Talk” rule is the means by which contrary information is controlled. No Christian should be in a position to be accused of this.

In Wilfred Bockelman’s book Gothard is reported as saying his reasons for not wanting evaluations published is that it is not “God’s way” (pp. 21, 22). “God’s way” according to Bill is found in Matthew 18 and Galatians 6:1, which tell us to go privately to someone who has sinned against us. However, these texts do not relate to public teaching at all. They are talking about sins against a brother.

Public teaching is subject to public discussion and disagreement. The New Testament church was patterned after the Jewish synagogues, where there there was two-way discussion of a teacher’s lesson. Public disagreement would have been inevitable in such a setting. Gothard’s seminars certainly do not provide such openness. If Gothard’s principle were followed, Paul would not have immediately and publicly rebuked Peter for his hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11–14).

Wilfred Bockelman also cited the example of Gothard suppressing the Wheaton College alumni paper from doing a report on him as one of the college’s successful graduates. And evangelical publishers have turned down authors who wanted to write a book about Gothard. One said, “We know that Gothard doesn’t want a book published about him, so we’re not going to publish one” (Bockelman, p. 19).

Joseph Bayly, in his June 1977 column in Eternity magazine, asked Gothard some very important questions about the extent of his teaching on a wife’s submission to her husband and a child’s obedience to his parents. Bayly had heard reports of wives, following Gothard’s teaching, submitting to the point of lying and even prostitution, and of parents trying to break a child’s will leading to the physical abuse, and even death, of a child. Bayly’s question to Gothard was whether he taught this kind of thing? Or were his followers taking his teaching too far? Gothard could not, or would not, answer the questions. Bayly said, “It is my considered opinion, however, that no servant of the Lord is in a privileged position when it comes to answering the allegations of unbiblical teaching. And no leader, Christian or otherwise, who programs the minds of tens of thousands is above answering responsible criticism.”

IV. Disqualification from Ministry

I believe Bill Gothard disqualified himself from ministry in the late 1970s. Bill’s brother Steve was involved in very perverse sexual promiscuity while vice-president of the Institute and while writing Volume 2 of the Character Sketches. High-level Institute staff tried to bring accountability to Bill, Steve, and the Board, but they were frustrated at every turn and finally were dismissed or resigned. Given the message of the Institute about conflict resolution, having a pure conscience, and breaking strongholds, it is important to consider how Bill and the Institute resolved this conflict. A chronology was compiled by former staff detailing the events.

In the Chronology’s introduction, the former staff say, “It is very important for you to realize that these notes are a partial aspect of this group of concerned Christians taking the third step of Matthew 18:15–21, having unsuccessfully taken the first and second steps over the last one year period of time in scores of meetings with the above-mentioned persons” (Waite, p. 43).

I had a one-hour phone conversation with Bill Gothard in May 1993 regarding some of my concerns. I told him of a book I had read by D. A. Waite (Bill Gothard’s Sex Scandal: Watergate? Or Waterloo?) regarding the massive sex scandal that came to light in 1980. Gothard immediately referred to the above chronology, only 19 pages out of 132, and said that the chronology was not true because no one signed their name to it, it was filled with factual errors, and he had brought in six nationally known Christian leaders from around the country to investigate the charges. These leaders, Gothard told me, found no support for the charges. I have spoken with some of the highest ranking former IBYC staff and all of them said they were never approached by these six leaders for their side of the story.

The basic story of the scandal is that Bill’s brother Steve had been sexually involved with at least six single staff secretaries for a period of five years. In 1976 some of the staff learned of the misconduct and confronted Bill about it. In January 1977, Steve confessed to the Board that he was “defrauding” secretaries. The actual sin was not named at this time and none of the “defrauded” secretaries were at the meeting. What was the Board to conclude? Were they holding hands? Bill knew the truth. Steve’s punishment was that he was sent to the Northwoods Retreat to write for the Character Sketches books. Steve, I am told, loved the Retreat. Bill  sent secretaries to the Northwoods to help Steve write the new material on character. According to the chronology, Steve continued to seduce secretaries.

In 1980 the continued immorality came to light again and the staff tried again to hold Bill and Steve accountable. The chronology indicates an inability by the staff to see the problems resolved.

When the full extent of the scandal became known to the Board, Board member Dr. Samuel Schultz resigned. Dr. Schultz was a professor at Wheaton College and taught Bill while he was a student there in the 1950s. In a phone conversation with me, Dr. Schultz said that Gothard asserted that he was not accountable to the Board but only to God (sounds like Swaggart and Bakker). Schultz said that, if that was the case, Gothard did not need him and so he resigned.

When efforts at accountability and reconciliation were frustrated, Rev. John MacArthur of Grace Community Church recommended that the Christian Legal Society be invited to provide impartial arbitration through its Christian Conciliation Service. The staff were willing, but Bill and the Institute rejected the offer.

The common refrain I have heard from other former staff is that power and control are very important to Bill. To illustrate this, Dr. Schultz told me of a meeting in which he asked a group of 30 staff if they felt they needed to ask Bill for permission to date someone. Fifteen people raised their hands. This is one of the results of the “chain of command” teaching, which leads to an overly strong dependence on the “authority” in command. Jon Farhat, former staff artist interviewed in the Cleveland Press, Monday, Sept. 29, 1980, said “Bill has an obsession for power.” If that is true, then it follows that anything that would threaten that power must be rejected.

On July 22, 1980, Gothard wrote a letter to 40,000 alumni pastors confessing the scandal. In that letter he said, “I deeply regret that it has taken this tragedy as well as the leaving of some faithful staff to bring me to comprehend the full significance of the problem. It is for this reason that I have requested a release from the Board for a period of time to seek the Lord’s direction in correcting the situation. I ask for your prayers for my family, past and present staff and their families, the board and me at this time.” (emphasis mine)

Gothard was released by the Board as he said. However, he was back in charge as president just three weeks later. In the staff’s chronology, under the date of July 23–29, 1980, within the week of Bill’s letter to pastors, they note, “Melvin, Tony, Mike, and Gary S. meet with Bill for five days to clear away personal differences and hurts to free up the relationship between Bill and Tony so they can again work together. With good progress being made, Bill cancels this whole process by declaring to the men that one staff member, the Board, his family, and God had advised him to stop meeting with these men.” (Waite, p. 60)

When it was all over, the Institute headquarters staff lost two-thirds of the approximately 75 employees. The September 29, 1981, issue of Christianity Today quoted Bill Wood, Administrative Director of the Oak Brook, Illinois, headquarters, as saying “most of the people leaving were the ones who had to meet the public and represent Bill.” Wood said they left because they could not, in good conscience, work for Bill when his practices did not match his teachings (p. 56).

No one among the former staff with whom I spoke said that there had been anything resembling a biblical resolution of the problems in the ministry. The women who were abused should have had whatever help they needed toward recovery offered to them by the Institute. They were “dismissed as a step toward restoration” (Gothard’s July 22, 1980, letter to alumni pastors). Many of these women still suffer emotional problems today.

It was important to me as I talked with each of the former staff to discern their attitude toward Bill. Some of them related very deep injury to themselves and their families. Was there anger, bitterness, or any desire to retaliate? I didn’t find any such attitude. These people still genuinely love him. A couple of them said they would do whatever they could even now if they thought it would help Bill to see the source of the problems that he and the ministry experienced.

In each of my phone conversations with former staff, I was told that I would be wasting my time trying to convince “Gothardites” that they need to reconsider their allegiance to Gothard and IBLP. Their own experience has been that of hostile disbelief and accusation of attacking “the Lord’s anointed.” I was also warned that it was not in my best interest to publicly denounce his ministry.


The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod studied the Institute’s seminars and wrote a report for their membership in which they noted that

“a curious phenomenon has emerged from interviews with ‘alumni’ of the Basic Youth Conflicts seminars. While those best educated in theology were the most critical of parts of Gothard’s presentations, they at the same time claimed the most benefits and inspiration from them. Their chief criticisms centered in confusion of Law and Gospel, ‘loose’ use of Scripture, and the ‘non-optional’ conclusions drawn from the ‘Chain of Command.’ They were a bit chagrined by Gothard’s hints of the ‘infallibility’ of his principles, and, at times, found themselves suspicious of a ‘system’ that ‘has everything nailed down’” (LCMS position paper, p. 7).

Dr. Allen asks why Gothard teaches dogmatically, with no hint of room for disagreement or even Gothard’s error. His own answer is, “because cultic figures never speak in this way. Attendance will not hold up when one does not claim to have an inside track with the secret things of God. Gnosticism did not die in the desert caves of Egypt. It lives in many coliseums and in numerous fat red notebooks all over the country” (Allen, “Gothard Again”, p. 8).

It is not my desire to attack a Christian brother because I disagree with some of his teachings, or because I think his own record is at odds with his teachings. I react to it because of the damaging impact on people’s lives. For fifteen years I have seen the damage done to people by the combination of false teaching and abuse of power in cultic religions. It saddensme but I also knew that none of these people were Christians. They were blind followers of blind leaders. However, when I began to see the same destructive impact on Christians resulting from the legalistic, performance-oriented teaching of IBLP I could not let it go.

In conversations with former staffers and others who have tried to follow the IBYC prescription for Christian living and failed, I repeatedly heard these characteristics of spiritual abuse.

Power Posturing—The focus is on the authority figure. If the authority is not real (i.e. moral authority), then it is postured.

Performance Preoccupation—The emphasis is on performance as the means of spiritual acceptance.

Unspoken Rules—The most common unspoken rule is the “can’t talk” rule. The person who speaks about a problem becomes the problem. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” is often heard.

Lack of Balance—Extreme objectivism or extreme subjectivism are common, and balance is defined by the leader. The leader tells people what to believe or not believe.

Paranoia—“Others will not understand us so we will avoid talking with them.”

Misplaced Loyalty—Primary loyalty is unconsciously given to the leader (because he is speaking God’s truth) all the while thinking their primary loyalty is to God.

Secretive—An abusive system is very image-conscious; secrecy helps maintain a righteous appearance.

No one sets out to promote such a system, and few who are in one are even aware of the unhealthy nature of the system. However, frequently there is a sense that something is not right. Usually they look inside themselves to place the blame. And this leads to the most damaging characteristic of the abusive system:

Assigning of Blame—Because the system is considered perfect, when it doesn’t work the problem must be that you did something wrong, had sin in your heart, or gave up too soon.

Jeff VanVonderen talks about these victims when he describes the four stages they go through on their way to spiritual shipwreck. The four stages are; 1) Try Hard, 2) Try Harder, 3) Try Your Hardest, 4) Give Up. (Tired of Trying to Measure Up. Bethany House, Minneapolis, MN)

People who get fully into the Institute system who do not have a good theological grounding and who have not properly understood the relationship of law and grace may face a grave danger of legalism. This danger is multiplied for those from backgrounds where love was conditional or there was an absence of grace-full relationships.

Certainly Bill Gothard would deny that he teaches toward these excesses. I sympathize with the cry, “Lord, deliver me from my disciples.” However, the fact that the Institute’s system produces such results has to point us back to the roots. Then we must conclude that “by their fruits ye shall know them.”

I cannot recommend the seminars for anyone, for any reason, at any time. I believe the danger to spiritual health is just too great.

This report is very brief, believe it or not. I have hit only the highlights, and many issues were not addressed. If anyone desires a fuller examination of the issues I am willing to help you as I can.


Recommended Reading on the subject of legalism and performance based Christian living.

Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur (Questar)

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by Johnson and VanVonderen (Bethany)

Families Where Grace Is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen (Bethany)

Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen (Bethany)

Breaking Free by Dr. David Miller (Baker)

Freedom From the Performance Trap by David Seamands (Victor)

The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll (Word)

Cages of Pain by Gordon Aeschliman (Word)

Damaged Disciples by Ron and Vicki Burks (Zondervan)

Battered Into Submission by James and Phyllis Alsdurf (InterVarsity)

The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan Allender (NavPress)

The Power Delusion by Tony Campolo (Victor Books)




Alsdurf, James and Phyllis, Battered Into Submission. (InterVarsity)

Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. (Bethany House)

Tony Campolo, The Power Delusion. (Victor Books, Wheaton, IL)

Wilfred Bockelman, Gothard. The Man And His Ministry: An Evaluation. (Santa Barbara, CA, Quill Publications, 1976).

Dr. Dan Allender, The Wounded Heart. (NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO)

Dr. D.A. Waite, Gothard’s Sex Scandals: Watergate Or Waterloo? (The Bible For Today, Collingswood, NJ, 1962).


Crater. Tim, “Bill Gothard’s View of The Exception Clause”, The Journal of Pastoral Practice, Vol. 4, No. 3, (Phillipsburg, N.J.. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1980), pp. 5-12.

Dr. Bernard Ramm, “Citing Scripture: Butchery or Surgery?” The Wittenberg Door, April-May, 1973.

Joseph Bayly. “Basic Conflicts: An Open Letter to Bill Gothard”, Eternity, June 1977.

Several reports from Christianity Today,

– Aug. 8, 1980, “Bill Gothard Steps Down During Institute Shakeup”, pp. 46, 47.

– Sep. 19, 1980, “Gothard’s Fast Comeback Overrides Calls for Reform,” pp. 56, 59.

– Feb. 6, 1981, “Gothard Staffers Ask Hard Questions and Press for Reforms in Institute”, pp. 68, 69.

Rev. Richard Fisher – “Deliver Us From Deliverance,” Personal Freedom Outreach, Quarterly Journal.


Dr. Ronald B. Allen – “Issues of Concern – Bill Gothard and the Bible: A Report” (1984)

— “Gothard Again” OT 523 – Exegesis in Wisdom Literature (1985)

Rev. Robert J. Sheridan – “Bill Gothard and Dispensationalism” term paper for Graduate Seminar in Theology TH 560, April, 1984, Calvary Bible College

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod “Institute In Basic Youth Conflicts (Bill Gothard): A Preliminary Study”

“A Summary And Recommendation Of The Ministries Of Bill Gothard”, by the Elders of the New Durham Chapel, Piscataway, NJ, June 1986.

“Bethany Christian Services Responds To Bill Gothard’s ‘Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend To Have More Conflicts’.” (8 page report)


Phone conversations with former IBYC staff, scholars, pastors, Christian counselors and a psychologist (Summer 1993).

Handwritten notes taken at the 1983 Pastor’s Seminar at the Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ, by Rev. John Hills, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Bayville, NJ.


Ten Reasons For Alumni To Be Encouraged. IBYC 1993 Alumni booklet

The Rebuilder’s Guide

Character Sketches. Vols. 1 & 2

Men’s Manual. Vols. 1 & 2

Basic Seminar Followup Course

Advanced Seminar Textbook

Basic Seminar Workbook



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. greg r May 20, 2014 Reply

    Well, the trumpet was sounded way back when. We chose to not pay attention, to not listen. Maybe it will be much more difficult for the next false teacher. Here,s hoping.

    • Christy Bell May 24, 2014 Reply

      That was before the internet and Facebook.
      Be encouraged, brother.

  2. Mosessister May 20, 2014 Reply

    This is a great compendium of materials that summarize the flaws in Gothards's teachings, thank you.

    I've had several people tell me anecdotally that there were significant changes within IBLP circa 1995, and that it became much more grace-focused. A lot of the material that is theologically critical of Gothard's teachings is from the 70's and 80's, and this supposed "change" is frequently used as a defense. Does anyone have evidentiary insight to any of these "changes?" Were they formal, informal, were materials revised? Any idea of the source of this perception of a mid-90's "change?"


    • The Quiet One May 20, 2014 Reply

      Mosessister, my family entered ATI in the mid-1990's and stayed for ten years. From all that I have read on here of Gothard's previous material, there were no significant changes made, aside from minor points, like the one I mentioned in my comment below, the message remained the same. I believe the seminar videos and the red books were the same; the Character Sketches were needed to complete certain projects; my father had the Men's Manuals. We had booklets on the dangers of rock music and the importance of skirts for women. I worked with both the old and new Wisdom Booklets and the only thing that changed was the addition of colour.

      Perhaps there were some concessions to concerns raised. I got a handbook of all the commitments Gothard encouraged one to take in the seminar, with lines below each one for my signature and date to keep track of when I made them. They changed the apprentice dress code from just navy blue and white to allow khaki and light blue for informal occasions - I was told that this was because in New Zealand, whither the program had recently expanded, navy blue and white was associated with Jehovah's Witnesses and ATI didn't want to be mistaken for a cult.

      Whatever changes were made, however, were insufficient and insignificant. My own life, as well as that of peers in the program whom I knew personally, was severely affected by the legalistic prosperity teaching of the program. By the time we left, my family was thoroughly disillusioned by Gothard's never ending formulas for success. He had by then added the Anger Management Seminars, the 49 Commands of Christ (matching 49 Character Qualities, which divided nicely into the seven Spiritual Gifts), and a weird teaching about Godly Jealousy... So, maybe the teaching did change, but I wouldn't say it was for the better.

      • Mosessister May 20, 2014 Reply

        Thank you, The Quiet One, I appreciate your perspective.

    • Sarah May 20, 2014 Reply

      Mosessister, First of all you have to realize that IBLP/ATI had it's own definition of grace. So what they mean by grace, and what the rest of Christianity means by grace are two different things. Grace is a big word thrown around a lot in ATI/IBLP, but instead of meaning "the unmerited favor of God" or "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it," to them it means "The desire and power to do Gods will."

      My family joined ATI in 1994 and remained in until sometime around 2006. Things did seem to change a bit in 1995, but not more towards grace, and I am not aware of any materials being revised during that time. The ATI curriculum was revised over several years sometime around 2000, but from what I could tell, they just did some fact checking in areas like medicine, and updated the layout, images, etc. I didn't notice any change in the theology taught. Over our time involved with IBLP and ATI things steadily seemed to get worse, more works based and less God focused. I've often heard the "things changed" or "things got better" argument used when people wouldn't back down from questioning the beliefs within the organization. But I have never seen real proof of those changes. Sure, women and girls can now wear skirts that end right below the knee, and you don't have to wear navy and white to conferences. But how is that a change towards real grace?

      There are others who could probably better answer the revisions of materials question, but as someone who was involved and whose family owned the materials, and bought new ones as they came out, I'd have to say that I really never saw any proof of that.

      • mosessister May 20, 2014 Reply

        Sarah, thank you for your insights. I have found it interesting that the most recent ATI Family Conference theme is "Looking Unto Jesus." Additionally, Jim Bob Duggar's stock answer to questions about Gothard are that they follow Jesus, not a man (despite evidence to the contrary). But this seems very mechanistic to me, to use Pastor Henkel's terminology above, from what I've observed. It's like they are trying to correct the focus from Gothard to Jesus simply by changing who they talk about most, but yet are lacking the Holy Spirit insight into how to actually live in joyful relationship with Jesus Christ. Very sad. :< Similar to what you are describing, I think.

        In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that I have very little personal experience with IBLP/ATI (by the grace of God), my observations are based on extended family members who are heavily involved, who are textbook examples of many of Pastor Henkel's observations above. I have often said that my family of origin is the most impotent and joyless group of Christians I've ever had to deal with. Sigh.

    • MatthewS May 20, 2014 Reply

      "Does anyone have evidentiary insight to any of these "changes?" Were they formal, informal, were materials revised?"

      Those are actually great questions to ask of the folks who make that claim. IBLP (previously IBYC) has been around a long time. It would not be unexpected to have some list of mistakes / corrections made somewhere. But has anyone ever seen one from them?

  3. The Quiet One May 20, 2014 Reply

    Fisher's first point was new to me, about Gothard's claim that divorce could only occur during Jewish betrothal. By my time, Gothard's sole argument against the adultery exception to divorce was the interpretation of the Greek word porneia, which he claimed dealt only with deviant sexual practices, like incest or homosexuality, and thus did not involve adultery - there were a lot of anecdotes of people forgiving and staying with their adulterous spouse to prove his point.

    Gothard went so far as to alter Spiros Zodhiates' Hebrew/Greek Study Bible notes on the subject (apparently with Zodhiates' permission) and published his own version of the Study Bible, complete with the ATI coat of arms stamped in gold on the spine. It was my most prized possession as a young teen, as I was quite proud of my Greek studies back then. Looking back, I realize how gullible I was, for adultery is definitely a deviant sexual practice.

    • Don Rubottom May 21, 2014 Reply

      Many have the view that remarriage is not acceptable without sharing Gothard's approach. It was the universal view of the Church for 1500 years. (Don't reply by citing Catholic abuses of "annulments". Once you conclude that marriage is indissoluble, it becomes essential to determine what is a true marriage in the first place. That such a process can be corrupted does not disprove the truth it is designed to disclose. God joins marriages, not the civil magistrate.) John Piper is of the traditional view, although he hasn't convinced his own Church. A careful study of the Gospels and I Cor. 7 convinces me that remarriage during the life of the spouse is a denial of God's design, even though divorce may have been unavoidable (he is intolerable, the unbeliever leaves, etc.). In NO Christian tradition is it seen as ungodly to remain single after divorce.

      And still God's Grace delivers us from condemnation for past acts and sanctifies present relationships. The most important truth to learn from the Bible's presentation is NOT how I can obey the law (I can't) but that despite our immoralities and idolatries (routinely analogized to adultery), God never abandons His spousal love for His Bride. It matters not what we do or how many substitutes we embrace. That Covenant Faithfulness is the image of God's Love that marriage is designed to present to the world, and it's why Jesus points to Genesis 2, pre-fall, to explain marriage. But, as Jesus explained, we have hard hearts.

      • Don Rubottom May 21, 2014 Reply

        Here is Ryrie on divorce and remarriage, very different hermeneutics from Gothard:

        • greg r May 21, 2014

          Seriously, can ANYONE name one scholar of known standing who agrees with Gothard on either this or his stance on adoption ? Of course for the Alfreds of the world , the novelty of this package is actually a good thing. You know... only Bill REALLY knows...

        • The Quiet One May 21, 2014

          Don, I would not disagree with much of what you have said. Divorce is a terrible thing, and even the use of such exceptions as fornication or an unbelieving spouse are not to be used carelessly. I did read your link, and there were some hermeneutical errors in it. Ryrie attempted to show that porneia did not usually include adultery by cross-linking the word 'fornication' in James' letter to the Gentile church (Acts 15), to the list of prohibited sexual acts in Leviticus 18, seemingly missing the fact that the Levitical list includes adultery.

          Let me be clear, I am not rushing to justify divorce, as I view it as one of the most destructive trends in Western society. However, I am not willing to torture Scripture in order to drive home a point either. I have recently encountered marriage situations which do not arise in this society: that of new Christian converts in a polygamous society, where a common persecution is for the family to divorce the convert from his or her spouse(s). I have come to realize that God's Word is both clear in its prohibitions and gracious in its understanding of the difficulties of living in a fallen world.

        • Don Rubottom June 9, 2014

          Sorry if I did not make my emphasis clear. I merely offered Ryrie and Piper as those having interpretations similar to Gothard's but definitely not of his graceless camp. I frankly don't believe divorce is avoidable in many cases while I believe the Scripture is far more limiting of remarriage (that is where Jesus went while refusing to answer their question about divorce). I took Ryrie's interpretation of "porneia" as sensibly focused on resolving the many problems that arise when interpreting it in Matthew to mean adultery, when Jesus, clearly saying adultery in other clauses of the same sentence implying another meaning for porneia. I share Ryrie's critique of Jay Adams's justifications. Gothard, however, was strongly opposed to divorce in cases of abuse and hostility, in part, I believe, due to his extreme views of a wife's submission. Paul clearly allows for a wife to leave if her circumstances are intolerable, forbidding her remarriage but not the separation. Husbands do not explicitly receive the same allowance in I Cor. 7. Everything Scripture provides about divorce and separation in both OT and NT appear to me to provide the grace of protection and compassion for women, their reputation, safety and economic welfare.

  4. Jon Owens May 20, 2014 Reply

    I read every blog post and every comment here. I don't comment often but suggest that RG is doing an amazing thing. Thank you for making public this great dissertation on the works of Mr Bill Gothard and his organization.

    • Joy May 20, 2014 Reply

      I agree Jon! It has been such a freeing growth-producing thing for me to examine these things and further illuminate the REAL TRUTH of God's Word! I am challenged to re-examine who God really is and what His Word really says! Thank you to those who have taken the time to write, compile and publish these articles!

  5. DAVID PIGG May 21, 2014 Reply

    Revealing an in depth compilation condemning Gothardism from a number of viewpoints.The author states that a number of women Steve sexually abused still suffer "emotional problems today".The afterward to this cult in effect being someone else's responsibility as Bill ingratiates himself with known Christian leaders and personalities,endorsing him by default;carefully note the six Chritian leaders refuting the allegations.I feel this in depth study hits like a sledgehammer.At Gothard's crony level, terms such as "fellowship","brother Bill","friend",etc.used with and amoung his peers,and promotors.If my pastor would use such terms about this man,after knowing established facts from this article,what kind of "brother","friend",would he be to me?Or my pastor,or any pastor?And whatkind of "fellowship" would I as a formerly deceived sheep have with this man?

  6. Guy Cooksey May 29, 2014 Reply

    This vastly instructive volume "seals the deal" for me as to the destructive practices and teachings of BG. All "great men" and their organizations, and all so-called "ministries" like IBLP need to re-examine their goals and motives and choose to NEVER use or manipulate precious souls for whom Christ died. In our Faith in Christ, the end NEVER JUSTIFY THE MEANS. RATHER, IT IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE THAT IS TRUE. THE MEANS JUSTIFY THE ENDS. We cannot use or manipulate any soul for our own ends--no matter how great the intended outcome. Jesus never used people for his own end. He is our perfect model of love and truth, not any man or woman. And, as ministry servants we must model this before our families and fellowships and always give them the loving-freedom to check things out in the scripture and to draw their own conclusions from the scriptures. It is sola scriptura (only Scripture) in context that has the final say, Not any man's study (or misuse) of it. BG deceived people with slick man-made applications of scripture taken out of context and then used destructively to cower people into submission. Even as a seminary trained pastor I failed to fully see its fallacies (although I was uneasy in my spirit). We must be careful NOT to be led astray by sound-finding arguments that come across as useful "knowledge" (COL 2:23).

  7. Guy Cooksey May 29, 2014 Reply

    Question for anyone out there on RG. I just got an e-mail from a guy who really admonished me for cancelling an IBLP seminar for this summer (after I found out about BG this past month). After appealing to me to have the seminars, he talked about judging the man just because he sexually harassed young women. He used the analogy of King David committing adultery and murder but being allowed to still be king. He also questioned my use of power as a pastor and how I could judge someone who also had power. I told him that my power was limited, and that I was under accountability by a church Board and District Assembly. Also, I pastor a church of about 100 people (and, thus, do not govern $60 million in assets with 100's of employees--vast difference). I also do not have a bevy of young girls "ministering" to me at my beck and call. Any way, how do you respond to the King David analogy?

    • Don Rubottom May 29, 2014 Reply

      I have a few ideas, although I am no expert on the matter. You might ask the man if he had read Ruth's and Rachel's stories on RG and also the Venoit book. If not, advise him that he needs to gather the facts before he can be certain about the beneficial nature of the "ministry". Walk through with him the "above reproach" passages about church leadership. Explain how the one who would teach comes under more severe judgment.
      You could ask him why he does not respect your and your board's authority to reject the seminar. You could also tell him that, although you do not believe BG has any real "new" insights from God, you would be happy to host a seminar of readings from King David's Psalms, as they have been validated by the testimony of God's people and the Holy Spirit for 3000 years, but that you would not want your daughter to be the virgin in King David's bed in his dying days! :-) Be gentle.
      This is an opportunity to "give an answer...out of season". It is also a good opportunity for you to search the scriptures to be secure in your decision. Don't just run from the accusations against BG, have a trial before your Board, or a panel of pastors, and let this man present a case before them. If you can correct him, you will have won a friend. If not, the blood will not be on your hands. We are all in this mess because far too few pastors adequately reviewed the materials 40 years ago. It is time to bring the full witness of Scripture to bear upon this teaching. And it is time for pastors to test what we are being led to consume in the form of "ministry".

    • greg r May 29, 2014 Reply

      apples and oranges. the OT kings had the job till death, that's how kingship works. NT leaders can be disqualified, can be removed for either faulty teaching (teaching a false gospel) OR behavior that is a reproach to the gospel. Bill could be removed for either, but maybe it's easier to see with the behavior. this would never have happened with an OT king, but that was then

    • Vivian May 29, 2014 Reply

      1. A civil leader such as a government official is not held to the same "above reproach" standard of conduct as a church leader (although as voters I certainly think we are wise to demand good conduct of our civil leaders).

      2. David was repentant. He poured out his full confession before God (and probably the prophet Nathan) with no reservations or self-justification. Bill Gothard has not shown this kind of contrition. Even if he did, his sin appears to be habitual in nature and to have spanned most of his adult life, rather than being a one-time fall from grace, and so repentance and healing take much longer.

      3. In a healthy church, a leader who falls into serious sin may be forgiven and restored to fellowship as a member of the congregation, but generally must wait a long time before being trusted in leadership again, if ever (depending on the severity of the sin). As with all relationships, it takes a long time to restore trust. In no conceivable way could Bill Gothard have restored trust in a few weeks after forty years of sin.

      • Don Rubottom May 30, 2014 Reply

        David had 7 wives and possibly numerous concubines. His was not a "one-time" fall from grace, but a grace filled adventure in fallenness (including bloodguilt that kept him from being the builder of the Temple). Polygamy cannot be defended morally or scripturally, nor can David's reliance upon Joab the murderer nor his advice to Solomon to murder Joab. David was a sinner who loved God. We can be too. He was repentant, most of the time. And David's repentance did not restore the quality of his leadership as his children fought over the throne, even deposing him for a time, bringing great shame and humiliation to the family and the nation.

        Unlike a warrior king, an elder, cannot be polygamous because he represents a faithful, covenant-keeping, peacemaking God and he also must be above reproach because God's reputation is at stake.

        Disqualifications for leadership are not necessarily based on sin and distrust. Women are not excluded because of sin or trust, but because of God's picture of headship, loving initiative and loving response in the creation of male and female in their unfallen state. A father of disobedient children is not excluded because of his sin, but because of his higher calling to humbly serve his broken family. I fear that the idea that sin, regaining trust, etc., are related to a call to leadership, represents one more way that a performance-based Christianity infects the Church. God supplies qualified leaders by His grace, not by man's works. Ephesians says these leaders are "gifts" to the church. We know the gift by the clear qualifications given to Timothy and Titus. By that same test, we know the fakes.

        Jesus forgave the thief on the cross but that would not qualify him to teach. What the church needs today is fewer teachers "restored" from publicly humiliating sin and more ex-teachers humble enough to accept forgiveness without re-elevation to leadership.

        Remember too that when kings assumed the priestly place (Saul, Uzziah) they were severely chastised for their presumption to spiritual leadership, not because of their qualification in righteousness. (And David introduced modern musical innovation into Mosaic prescribed worship so he would never be allowed to teach an IBLP meeting!)

  8. Guy Cooksey May 30, 2014 Reply

    Thank you all for your good responses to my question. This man came from out of nowhere on my e-mail, seeing my e-mail on the IBLP web site and appealing to me to have the seminars. After I rejected his appeals with what I thought were solid reasons, he did respond to me out of disgust, and I suspect not a little frustration. It will take time for men and women who have been affected by BG's false teaching to actually (and honestly) investigate the mass of data collected against BG. I gave him the RG web site which he denounced.

  9. Vanessa June 1, 2014 Reply

    Perhaps I'm way off here, but it seems to me that Christians need to be very careful in their study and use of the OT. The conclusion at the council at Jerusalem did not include a directive to give the Gentiles copies of Exodus, Leviticus, Psalms and Proverbs, at the very least, so that they could make sure to circumcise their sons, tithe, avoid pork, refuse to take on debt, make covenants with their sons and daughters, and have a quiverful of children. The fact is, the Gentiles very likely did not have any portions of the OT for study or application. Today, pastors and teachers may be quick to say that the law does not apply to us but the "principles" of the OT do. We should be "reverse Bereans", making sure that the "principle" is also found in the NT before applying it to believers today, lest we become "foolish Galatians".

    • Don Rubottom June 2, 2014 Reply

      Not so sure I agree with the way you say this. Care, yes. The whole "principles" concept is clearly dangerous: the leader gets to pick, choose and interpret to determine what principles are applicable. But what is wrong with just being a Berean and searching the Scriptures to see whether what we are taught is true? The NT gives us very good instruction on how to use the law, and convinces us of our absolute dependency on grace and total inadequacy to do works of the law apart from grace (unearned!).
      The more I study the NT, the more I see how dependent it is on the OT. The word "bondage" or "enslaved" in I Cor. 7:15 is one example (see Exodus 21:1-11: men may choose bondage for marriage, covenant women have the right to liberty if not granted full marital rights and respect). Many Gentiles were familiar with the OT, the Septuagint had been circulating for over a century and the entire Roman world acknowledged the uniqueness of the Jews: they were the only people exempt from worshiping the Emperors and from Roman blasphemy laws which convicted Christians as atheists. (Jews were exempt because they preferred death to idolatry.)

      I Tim 1:5-11 "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
      Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

      The whole law is instructive of sin and of righteousness and of holiness and of judgment. I Timothy 1 and other NT passages confirm this. It is "swerving away" from love, conscience and faith--using the law as a hammer or to measure a believer's righteousness--that is abusive. (It is also abusive to use proverbs as laws. If God wanted those in the law, he would not have waited for Solomon to put it down. Wisdom literature and law are different.) The law is not for the just and if we are justified in Christ, it is useless against us.

      But every principle of the NT is found in the OT (some as mystery disclosed in the NT, i.e. Gen. 2:24) for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. The OT clearly establishes that "the just shall live by faith." And so the NT: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

  10. Jason July 24, 2014 Reply

    Mr. Gothard’s warning about ungodly music and rock beats included a story about a recording a missionary’s daughter was playing in their home on the mission field. She was questioned by a local convert why she was playing music that would call up demons.

    The album she was playing was from the 60s. Josh McDowell had asked Ralph Carmichael to produce that particular album for a project he was doing at the time. The LP is entitled “Sounds of the Now Generation” and the song was “He’s Everything to Me.” I purchased the album online and had it made into MP3s. The following link is of the song, if you’re interested in listening.

    • J.B. July 24, 2014 Reply

      It's so sad to see how something so edifying was used as a pawn in a game of division among believers.

    • Ellen July 24, 2014 Reply

      Seriously, Jason? THAT was the song? I never knew that! But I remember that song of the first "new songs" I ever heard/learned as a teen.

      (and thanks for the bit of nostalgia!)

    • esbee September 20, 2014 Reply

      I remember that story also but as the game telephone goes, by the time I heard it, the person played the music (not a missionary's daughter) was playing plain rock music.

  11. Paul Robinson September 20, 2014 Reply

    Jason, He's Everything to Me -- I loved that song then and enjoyed listening to it from your link. But how do you know that was the album and song referred to?

  12. […] In his analysis of Gothard’s teachings, David Henke explains the aspects of the IBLP’s methods that make it distinctly cultish. The article is comprehensive and lays out a damning repudiation of Gothard’s methods, but one particularly relevant criticism Henke had was the IBLP’s very intricate regulation of family relationships; reducing every family interaction to a series of steps. Here he quotes another critic of Gothard, “Wilfred Bockelman said, “It seems that Gothard fails to adequately present the need for relationships with children, positing instead the proper role and proper discipline that is necessary to get a desired response from the children. The preoccupation is with control, predictability, the proper behavior instead of the need for nurturing relationships in which learned behavior and attitudes come from models, not coercive manipulation” (p. 83, emphasis in original).” […]

  13. Nadine Meadows April 8, 2017 Reply

    It is amazing tome that while you are so right on so many points that you don't see how this mindset permeates religion completely. Some live it to a higher degree, but questioning is forbidden by all religion. And finding oneself to have arrived at non-belief elicits the same shaming responses from every facet of christianity.

    "having a spiritual problem of rebellion, pride, or bitterness." And their words may be 'nicer'' "you just didn't understand, it was your past, your just being reactionary" you do the same thing.

    I need a counseling group to recover from religion completely. I am atheist and have since 2014 when I'd finished a 10 year study into my 'faith' and sought out evidence confirming it's "truth". All evidence slowly led me to non-belief, until one day in 2014 I realized I was atheist.

    As a result I have been hated, accused of deceit, bitterness, hatred towards everyone else because I dared to think for myself. I have no more family as I am a outcast and all blame for that laid at my feet.

    Both the legalists side of my family AND the non-legalist side have put forth every effort to shame me, humiliate me, and to even gloat that they will "not be burning for eternity". The non-legalist side has ALSO called me possessed, evil, hate ridden all for rejecting the myth.

    ALL religion is cultish and maybe you non-legalists can't see that because you've started from the assumption that it is true and the legalists have it wrong. And because you have "nice families".

    Even the "nice christians" participate in shaming, blaming, and abusing the victim by claiming they are being "used as a tool of satan".

    • Don Rubottom April 20, 2017 Reply

      I am truly sorry for the way you have been treated. But I do not understand why you expect right behavior from deluded people, particularly if righteousness does not exist. If you truly expect to be respected for whatever you do and think, you might consider respecting all others for whatever they do or think.
      On the other hand, you apparent need to be loved and appreciated for who you are, which these others have truly offended, may in fact be the evidence that you have not considered. If we are made to be loved, it would make sense that we yearn for love. If we just happened and just are, then eat, drink, and be merry. Enjoy yourself, don't let the deluded get you down. Forget them. They are nothing as are we all.

  14. huzandbuz April 21, 2017 Reply

    To Don:

    I am commenting on your other correspondence.
    You stated, "Gothard did not appear to understand....."

    It was to his benefit to purpose NOT to understand the proper relationship within the marriage .....correct??

    I know I read somewhere that he was scheduled to begin court proceedings on April 7th. Do you have any idea what happened or what is to take place??

    • Don Rubottom April 26, 2017 Reply


      I tend to the belief that much of our sin is based on lies and delusions so I try to avoid making everything about self-interest. Our delusions certainly mold our idea of self-interest, but the delusion probably comes first. Satan probably loved himself prior to serving himself rather than the other way around.

      I do not believe he built the entire enterprise to get a few cheap feels off of young women. That was a consequence of his legalism.

      I came here this week to see if there is any news on the lawsuit. I know nothing.

      The quietness all year tells me the entire IBLP world is dissipating. I do wish we could create some good post-mortem and recovery literature to help others better see the truth, but other false prophets and wolves will arise. We have been told this by Christ and the Apostles. (Jude 4-16) And delusions will continue until He returns to abolish the darkness.

      • huzandbuz April 26, 2017 Reply

        To Don:

        Thank you for taking the time to respond.

        I sure would like to believe that initially, Gothard's motives were pure, but I am not convinced. It went on for sooo long.... Not only were his actions diabolical, but he was purposely devious even after so many confronted him.
        His need for complete control of everyone and every situation is incomprehensible. A master deceiver...
        I met him personally. Face to face, he gives you that 'look', of such humility...all the while, sizing you up.
        I wish I could stop thinking about the destruction he has caused, but the consequences of his 'ministry' linger...

        I continually ponder his early childhood and overall family life with his parents and siblings. All (3) brothers lead destructive lives. Certainly his father and the sisters who were a part of the institute knew of the rampant immorality. Yet, they were all partakers in this evil coverup. Sigh....

        I desperately desire all those who are a part of the lawsuit to have the opportunity to confront him in open court.

        I have repeatedly searched everywhere in an attempt to discover what is taking place 'behind the scenes'. I know that I read twice that he was to have a court hearing beginning on April 7th. I noted my calendar so that I would be mindful to be especially prayerful beginning that day. So, we wait....

        Enough said.

        Thank you again for your input. :+)

        In His Grip.... <

      • Nicole Gardner April 27, 2017 Reply

        @Don R.,
        What you say about delusion likely preceding self-interest's excess forms the paradigm for something I've believed about Bill Gothard ever since about 2005. (That's the year I 1st started reading my Bible with intentioned dissociation from IBLP interpretations of it). I've known that anybody who felt compelled to spend 95% of their life-effort only on attractive people has that as a serious hindrance to being in the workforce. After all, you spend 95% of your energy accomplishing things involving people whose attractiveness is not a matter of one's own choice, then only the other 5% of your endeavors can be slated simply for getting-with only good-looking people. I believe that, whatever it was that dtive Bill Gothard to think that 5% of his working-years spent in making associations with attractive people only was not enough, is that original delusion. I believe that his specific (& extraordinary accommodation) of this delusion was the self-interest of determining as a teen to never ever enter the workforce but instead to pursue attractive people full-time. These were the delusion & self-interest that afforded each other. Because I was so fortunate to not have been abused by ATI- only IBLP- while yet it was as bad for me as it was I view the delusion & the effects of his selfish solution for it as also standing on their own without ATI. His abuse of women was at full-force before he ever invented ATI. Rather than bring due to his legalism, I therefore believe his sexual & romantic exploitation & emotional cruelty in misusing girls/women was due to a deluded lack of trust in God that led to a lifestyle of severe idolatry in attempt to remedy this feeling of personal inadequacy. Then, after this caused a sex-abuse scandal, it was legalism that Gothard resorted to as an attempted remedy. I believe that the proof of this has also been manifested in the lives of devout IBLP followers who didn't necessarily follow in Gothard's ATI legalism to try to clean up the same kinds of problems IBLP caused in their own lives. The common denominator in sexual abuse is delusion coupled with self-interest for someone like Gothard who was never afflicted by legalism prior to his fall likewise as those following after him in IBLP who nonetheless abused others without having been externally abused. The legalism started somewhere.

        • Nicole Gardner April 30, 2017

          If I went on a stage & told the audience: "I was talking with my boss one day & we agreed to only ever have attractive clients", those hearing me would assume it was a Hollywood recruiting business or else sex trafficking. Even in that context, nobody would hear me go on & on about how much my boss went ahead & blessed me to this effect; they'd just cut me short by saying "yeah, well, your boss must sure be a superficially motivated person." Honestly, I'm more offended by Gothard's reflecting his god's favoritism onto God than I am about Gothard living his life in partiality.

        • Don Rubottom May 2, 2017

          Then too, one delusion may have been akin to that of the faith healer: Gothard may have convinced himself that HE had THE answers to life's challenges and that if any would follow his "steps" that they would be happy, healthy AND BEAUTIFUL. It is convenient to believe so. Then, you can say of someone is not beautiful, that person is not living right. It all reinforces the idea that pretty is good and good is pretty. Why would God want ugly people around the Great Teacher? Wouldn't beautiful people "attract" seekers and potential disciples? Projecting one's own preferences on to others also feeds this line of thinking.
          One key is that his standard was not mere beauty, but "soft curls, brown hair, etc.", Gothard's favorite type.
          Remember he was a promoter and marketer as well as a "boss".

  15. Nicole Gardner May 2, 2017 Reply

    He said in the Basic Seminar that was taped & sent out en masse for projection onto overhead whiteboards circa 2000-2004 that his determination to a life of "ministry" was exclusively "to the physically attractive." While yes, all the promises I also heard about his teachings being the guarantee of a lovely shining countenance were also included, he DID say that he was called to work primarily with those already physically attractive. Among those not yet benefiting from his enlightenment, he exclusively pursued those well-endowed with "attractive" looks. Two different segregations of the ignorant.
    I've heard a joke from another pulpit about a single woman who wanted to go be a missionary in a region so dangerous that a single lady would not be sent without a husband as her protector. Believing it to be Gid's will that she go there, she supposedly went to the thrift store for an old pair of men's britches which she then hung up on the outside of her closet door. Seeing them there, every night she would pray to God "for a man to fill them." The joke goes that, as she & her new husband were being commissioned as missionaries to that region, the story of her "faith" was told, demonstrating God's gracious answering of extra-needy, individualistic prayer (God is kind). As it went, a man in the congregation with his family, that included a teenage son, reported the impact this service had on his family: Seems he went to his son's room the following Monday & saw a frilly bikini swimsuit hanging up in his son's closet door. "Well son", he said, "I see you paid attention to the service yesterday", & left the room chuckling.
    Now of course this son's continued heeding of sermons & eventual marriage to a lovely girl were due to actual character strengths that this young man developed over time. The story is a joke, told as a joke. Say that this hypothetical young man stood up before hundreds of thousands of people & say: "I've been successful with regard to physical attractiveness, called by God to be blessed in this respect, due to Him getting a hold of me in this way when I was still a teenager." People would either think it was a joke, sarcasticly told to highlight that God certainly doesn't bless foolish whims, or else that this speakers' concept of God is that He's a genie out of a bottle. And people would then look piteously on this man's poor beautiful wife, realizing that it wasn't the character of a mature man that held her looks in high esteem, but that his fancy was what he prided himself as having deserved her.
    Presenting this kind of story as anything other than the joke that it is makes the Giver of blessings appear to be a gimbal machine.

    • Don Rubottom May 4, 2017 Reply

      I wish I could see that video. It would have made my wife say "yuck" for sure. That BG would give such a clue and we all miss it would be a shame on us all. If the video exists, it ought to be in evidence in the lawsuit. It is important that we verify and validate our charges and not merely perpetuate rumors. Title and date of tape would be nice.

  16. Nicole Gardner May 9, 2017 Reply

    @Don R.:
    Had major surgery on May 4th so only now responding. I do not know if the current Basic Seminar (the one available on the IBLP website) is different or the same. It wouldn't matter; the fact is that the webinar circa 2000-2004 contained Bill Gothard's account of being impressed by "God" as a teenager that he was thereby "called to ministry" the focus of which must be to "attractive" young people. He was therein specially equipped to serve the "attractive" since they were their own demographic. And it was all "God's" idea. May I make clear that I don't judge the guy for having a teenage notion of what he wanted to be when he grew up. What I'm criticizing him for is his bragging about it as an adult; an elderly adult. As if it had been his God-given right to spend the bulk of his life pursuing attractive people & that, on top of that, we're supposed to revere this as a "ministry" that "God" supposedly "called" him to. It was a claim to kudos as much as it was an excuse for how he had lived his life. And yes; it would have been a dead ringer of a giveaway to anyone not already brainwashed by his other doctrines of personal inferiority.

    • Don Rubottom May 10, 2017 Reply

      Well said!

    • Larne Gabriel May 11, 2017 Reply

      Ed It is of interest that Billy's claim that he was call to minister to "attractive " goes against the calling that our Savior had. He ministered to the down trodden, poor, sick, lame, blind, sinners, tax collector and the forgotten and outcast souls of his day and he still does..

  17. David Henke December 6, 2022 Reply

    I have my own troubled memories of writing the Summary Report. I spoke three times with Gothard on the phone. He was trying to prevent me from publishing my report. The first phone call came while I was watching the Branch Davidian compound burn down. Interesting "coincidence."

    Since BG introduced me to the subject of spiritual abuse, I have had many occasions to help abuse victims. Out of that help, and much study, I produced the Spiritual Abuse Recovery Workbook. You can find it on Amazon.

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