An Overview of Some Problems with Bill Gothard’s Teachings
AS A PARA-CHURCH ORGANIZATION
1. Though he claims to support the church, in reality he has a very low view of the Church:
The predominant method of Gothard is to articulate a major problem or evil (usually as a result of the Christian’s lack of spiritual maturity, sinfulness, or adoption of the world’s standards), and then provide the solution. His solution is to apply hisprinciples directly to individuals within the family. He thereby, perhaps unwittingly, dismisses the importance and the God-given role of His Church.
There is very little in his materials which demonstrate any support for the Church.
In fact, in a couple of places, such as in his Training Faithful Men Resource Manual, p.60, Mr. Gothard tells us that the fourth “scriptural conviction…which every man must teach his family in order to protect them from the destructive influences of wrong desires, false philosophies, and evil companions… (is) My church must teach the foundational truths of the bible and reinforce my basic convictions.” P. 60
Gothard wrote, “A strong nation is not built on strong local communities but on strong families” (Be Alert to Spiritual Dangers: Supplementary Alumni Book, Volume 6, 1980; p. 18). This is only partially true. What does he mean by “strong families”? Moral families? Religious families? Further, while the underpinning of a society is the family, just because a nation has strong families (as the Romans did) does not mean that the society is godly, or even biblically moral for that matter. In addition, Gothard excludes the work of God in and through His Church. Family is obviously more important in all his literature than is the eternally enduring Church of God.
2. He supplants the ministry of the local church by:
Taking on a position of teaching authority whose opinions and doctrines at times contradict those of the local church’s authority.
Taking the role of pastor-teacher, which is biblically reserved for the local or regional church.
He is not under the oversight of a local or regional church.
Mr. Gothard would not pass the scrutiny of any conservative Presbyterian examinations.
In Gothard's "The Power of the Living Church - A Biblical Strategy for Courageous Pastors and Congregations" he shows the supposed difference between God's methods and man's methods in a local church. "Practice" #13 (which is man's error) is "We assigned teachers. Our church schools were almost entirely designed around the graded class model, which separates children by age-groups. We assumed that the teachers would have the primary influence on their classes, but the Encyclopedia Britannica confirms the purposes which educators had in mind when they designed class-levels for schools..." Then for the "Biblical Strategy" the right method is that "God Trains Fathers. The primary duty of pastors is to train fathers to fulfill their God-given responsibilities in being disciplined men, loving husbands, wise fathers, faithful stewards, and effective leaders. A man's ability to manage his family is a key determining factor of his ability to lead the church, because an elder must be 'one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.' (I Timothy 3:4). NOTICE THAT THE CHILDREN ARE NOT TO BE IN SUBJECTION TO THE PASTOR OR TEACHER, BUT TO THEIR FATHERS..." (emphasis mine).
BUT... in one of Gothard's other booklets (Ten Reasons for Alumni to be Encouraged, p. 13) he proudly publicizes that his seminars offer segregated training for seminar families: "While parents and teenagers learn about seven Biblical principles in a Basic seminar, the children in the family will be taught those same principles on their level. By the end of the week, the whole family will have a new Biblical foundation for functioning together as a harmonious team."
METHODS OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION AND VIEW OF SCRIPTURE
1. Mr. Gothard continually announces his materials as “discoveries,” which implies that the Lord has revealed these things to him, thus placing himself in a special position as authority.
The implications of these ‘secrets” or “discoveries” or special “rhemas from God” may not be clear at first reading, being so subtle. However, one gets the impression that God has appointed Mr. Gothard and his Institute as the true remnant of God to save America from destruction.
One example is found in his Life Purpose, Volume 1 book, page 14. God supposedly gave him a rhema(personal word from God) about a remnant:
“I can still remember the deep sadness which I felt when the following rhema was given to me: ‘And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold’ (Matthew 24:12). I associated this with the rhema of Isaiah 59:19 and understood that when God raised up a standard against the floods of iniquity, the love of many Christians who were not a part of the standard would become cold toward the Lord, toward marriage partners, and toward Godly Christians. When love decreases, God’s way is to work with a remnant. That is precisely how this whole ministry began– by taking a few who wanted to be totally dedicated to God and leading them to spiritual maturity. When others see how God is working through a few, many are motivated to follow. Each of you who loves the Lord and who has embraced the living principles of His Word is now a vital part of a remnant” (emphasis mine).
(1) The first problem is that Gothard takes Matthew 24:12 out of its context to prove his point.
(2) Secondly, he arrogantly claims that those Christians who did not become a part of his ministry, which he asserts is God’s standard and remnant, will have love which will wax cold. The implication is clear – be a part of his work or be a cold-hearted Christian!
(3) Then, there is the false teaching that God raises up a special remnant outside of the God’s visible Church. Biblically, the remnant is not a parachurch organization, but true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Institute is not the remnant, and Gothard is not the new Moses.
Another example, found in the same booklet on page 14, implies God’s special hand upon Gothard. While giving encouragement to parents for having large families, God supposedly spoke to him through another rhema. This rhemawould launch his homeschool program: “God then appealed to the meaning of my name(protector) with the following rhema: ‘If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?’ (Proverbs 24:10-12). This rhemagave me further boldness in pursuing a program that would allow parents to train their sons and daughters at home.”
(1) This type of arrogance is personally nauseating. God appeals to Gothard’s name. God presumably creates a homeschool program based upon the name of Bill Gothard! Again, what is implied is that this program is specially ordained. All others would be inferior. One could take this to mean that all other homeschool programs, which make no such revelatory claims, are not godly, or at lest not adequate to the task.
(2) In addition, a biblical passage is used to justify this claim.
c. He also writes and teaches that believers should be attentive to “promptings: they are inward urgings to do God’s will (Phil. 2:13; Ti 2:11-12) (page 31, Men’s Manual Vol 1)
“You can begin to make your family “mighty in Spirit’ by training them to be more alert to the inner promptings of God’s Holy Spirit. As you and your family become more alert and obedient to the promptings of God’s Spirit, you will experience more of His power and life within your spirit.” (p. 39)
“For if ye live after the [promptings of the] flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the [promptings of the] Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Rom. 8:13 (p. 40)
2. Mr. Gothard believes God speaks and reveals personal guidance to individuals through rhemas and promptings:
a. Point "D" undermines and negates the rest since it gives as the final test, "The Test of God's Spirit." This is based upon Colossians 3:15 and explained as follows:
"A wrong decision may look right, but if we are alert to the prompting of God's Spirit, we will not have peace in the matter. You should have inward peace after the first three tests have been passed. Let the peace of God rule (be the umpire) in your hearts" (emphasis added).
The context of Scripture quoted has to do with keeping peace in one's relationships with others in the church. Colossians 3:12 urges kindness and longsuffering; verse 13 urges forgiveness and condemns quarreling; verse 14 urges us to love in our responses and relationships; verse 15 deals with one's willingness to keep peace with others. The verse has nothing to do with guidance or decision making. The Scripture verse has been 'wrested' to prove a point.
So, in Gothard's guidance system an inner feeling of peace is the ultimate test. If we do not have that subjective feeling of peace, do we then question the objective statements of Scripture? Feelings of peace should not supersede scriptural direction. Churches have had to carry out discipline in obedience to Christ (Matthew 18) while feeling stress, agony, turmoil and spiritual grief. –Fisher
b. Again, many things need to be said about his view of Scripture and the dichotomy he places between the synonyms of logos and rhema. Here I present some concerns about this statement:
(1) He uses Romans 10:17 to say something it does not. This is terrible interpretation, and not even faithful to the Word. The context of Romans 10:12ff is that without commissioning and sending men to proclaim the Word, the Word does not go forth. In 10:14, Christ is the whom, Christ is the One Who speaks through the preached Word. So faith comes by hearing Christ speaking through the preached Word, not through one’s own mystical hearing of God’s directives from a private encounter with the Bible. That’s the point of this text, not Gothard’s view of rhema.
(2) He also removes Isaiah 59 passage far from its context and the Holy Spirit’s intended use. The Holy Spirit did not put that text in there to tell Bill Gothard where he was to initiate or perform youth ministry.
(3) This method he employs is like the method of cult groups.
(4) This method on its own terms justifies the person’s own interpretation of Scripture and his activities in life. Herein is the danger - who is to tell Mr. Gothard or anyone else that what he is doing is wrong if indeed God has spoken to him so explicitly and specifically through the Bible? On the other hand, how does he really know these are truly from God? If you say he know because it is confirmed by experience, then experience becomes the higher standard by which we judge what God says.
(5) Gothard, and others, have not demonstrated from the Bible itself that this is how God desires for us to use His Scriptures - like some magic formula. Instead of this practice, the Bible tells us that the propositional Word as it is in its written form is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3ff).
(6) Gothard’s view is not too dissimilar from Karl Barth’s, which, simply put, said the true word of God was that word personally given to a particular person at a particular time.
(a) This understanding sets up two levels of the Bible: one that is objectively factual and one that is truly relevant. The relevant (which is the subjective) becomes a higher priority and goal to attain. The other is only a basic necessity, if that.
(b) This also implies even at a practical level that all the Bible as the inscripturated Word is not sufficient for life and godliness. Only the higher, spiritual voice from God spoken to me personally is the genuine Word.
3. Mr. Gothard is selective in his use of Bible verses in order to prove his point.
Much of his material is not only Scripture twisting, but also invalid proof-texting. In addition, he resorts to provinghis principles by using testimonials.
4. He takes singular words from the Scripture and making full-blown doctrines out of them.
Taking the synonyms for law, such as precept, statute, etc. and giving each one a separate and unsubstantiated principle with applications.
Develops a whole doctrine of hearing from God by making the two Greek synonyms for “word” (logosand rhema) into two totally different ways God speaks..
One example of such terrible misuse of Scripture by redefining biblical terms is by his statement that “Faith comes by hearing the rhema-word of God NOT the logos-word of God. (Romans 10:17).” In other words God will speak a personal message to you to reveal His explicit and detailed will through one or a few Bible verses. (See pages 11-14 in the Life Purpose: A Journal of God’s Power in Us, Volume 1, 1990)
c. He teaches that there is a big difference between faith and belief.
5. Redefines biblical words to fit his system:
a. Grace is “the desire and power to reproduce ourselves spiritually.” (Advanced Seminartextbook). This is not the biblical definition of grace. Graceis “the desire and power to do God’s will. Grace is not the freedom to reject God’s moral laws, but the desire and power to keep them.” (Men’s Manual, Vol. 1; p. 113)
Faith is “Visualizing what God intends to do.” Faith is “visualizing what God is able to do in the life of a totally dedicated believer. Faith is discerning what God wants to do in your life and family” (Men’sManual, Vol. 1; p. 118). Here he psychologizes. Gothard and his followers make a big difference between faith and belief.
Then Mr. Gothard continues, "Faith comes by hearing the rhemas-word of God, NOT the logos-word of God! Romans 10:17....By the words that God gives you, not the Logos, but through the Bible... For example: “ Gothard gives an example when he was asking God to give him specific direction about youth work. He was reading the passage, I believe it was Isaiah 59:19 , when God told him through this Bible verse, “From the rising of the sun to the going down... God was saying to me to go to New Zealand because that's where the sun first rises... And sure enough I get a call from New Zealand..."
b. Faithful –
Faithful Heart vs. Fearful Heart
(The title in the booklet, page 28 is A Good and Faithful Heart vs. an Unbelieving Heart) Purpose is to claim great exploits for God (Neh. 9:8).
The purpose of a faithful heart is not to claim great exploits for God, but rather to glorify God in all things (Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 10:31). His material in the booklet is presented differently than what he gave in the seminar. In the booklet he defines a good and faithful heart as “one that consistently carries out the acts of faith that come from the rhemas of God’s Word. A faithful heart is loyal, trustworthy, and dependable.”
This view of his presents some challenges to the Bible’s clear teaching. For one, faithfulness is a required response of belief and obedience (John 1:12ff; Acts 16:31; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17). It is a commitment to God (Rom. 4:24; 1 Pet. 1:21) and to His work of redemption through Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:22, 26; 4:20; 10:9 1Jn 51), which is the Good News (Mk. 1:15 cp 2 Thess. 1:10).
Secondly, faithfulness may or may not deliver “great exploits for God.” God’s purposes might be many, but may not necessarily include great things for Him.
a. Gothard tends to align himself with the camp within modern Christendom which believes that only those great, dynamic, or miraculous things are signs of faithfulness and indications of God’s pleasure upon a person or people.
b. Sometimes faith and faithfulness did result in miracles (Matt. 17:20f; 1 Cor. 13:2); but sometimes miracles or great things happened without faith (Matt. 7:22f; John 5:1-9; 1 Cor. 12:9).
c. This sets up a sense of defeat and guilt if one were to really accept his view at face value. What if my ministry were rather mundane, normal, without great accomplishments? What if I were not among the few through whom God works incredible and mighty things? What if I were - average? Then, by his definition, I am not faithful. This is a ludicrous and unbiblical proposition. I am faithful because it is what God wants me to be. I leave the great exploits up to Him.
d. Authority– he develops an unbiblical doctrine of the chain of command. Authority is the “umbrella of protection.”
e. Heart– claims that there are twelve different hearts (Minister’s Seminar, 1998).
In the Life Purpose: A Journal of God’s Power in Us, Volume 1, 1990, pp. 9-10, he concludes that the reference to the heart in Proverbs 23:7 is not “poetic imagery”, but literal. He uses a 1985 newspaper report about how the organ of the heart is an “ ‘intelligent’ organ that communicates regularly with other parts of the anatomy and sometimes even gives advice to the brain…” Mr. Gothard then concludes, “Contrary to popular belief, the head is not the only part of the body that thinks.” With this information, Gothard writes, “Because God uses the analogy of the head to help us understand the role of the husband, consider the rich insights of comparing the heart to the functions of the wife and the responsibilities of the husband for his wife.”
Therefore, the teacher is able to advance “Proverbs has much to say about the human heart; therefore, let’s consider how the references to the heart could give us a greater understanding of dynamic marriage. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). If we apply this verse to the husband-and-wife relationship it would instruct the husbands: Guard your wife with all diligence, for out of her are the issues of life. Realize how many issues of life come from the wife.” So, the exhortation is for the husband to guard his wife from “unnecessary pressure, from corrupting influences, and from damaging discouragement.”
Gothard uses Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” to challenge the husband to carry out his promises to his wife as “quickly as possible.” He applies Proverbs 12:25, “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad” to marriage and reinterprets it to say, “Heaviness in a man’s wife causes her to be discouraged, but a good word makes her glad.” The husband, of course has the duty to affirm or give and encouraging word to his wife, because it is “amazingly effective in strengthening his wife.”
He continues this misinterpretation, “Victory or defeat in the Christian life is determined in the mind according II Corinthians 10:4-5. For this reason we are to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. A husband is, therefore, charged with the responsibility to cleanse his wife by the Word. ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word’ (Ephesians 5:25-26). One of the important times that a wife needs a ‘good word’ is during the birth of a child. A wise husband will read the Scriptures to his wife until one verse stands out with special meaning. This verse then becomes the rhema during the birth. Wives whose husbands have done this have testified that such a rhema has strengthened them during labor and freed them from the fear and the anxiety which they would otherwise experience.”
This is a terrible perversion of Scripture. If we were to consistently use “heart” as a synonym for the “wife” then Scripture has some very terrible things to say about the wife. For example:
· “The intent of a man’s heart (read: wife) is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21, NASB)
· “…Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as a man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but he Lord looks at the heart (read: wife).” (1 Sam. 16:7; NASB)
“Deceit is in the heart (read: wife) of those who devise evil…” (Prov. 12:20, NASB)
f. Circumcision“means cutting away that which hides impurity.” This is not the biblical definition. But he uses this definition to say that one must cleanse his own heart “to remove all your secret impurities. You must expose all your secrets to God (Jer. 4:4); and God will circumcise your heart (Deut. 30:6). This is a man-oriented work. Gothard is clearly teaching that man must do something first before God will do His cleansing work. This is another Gospel.
1.Gothard defines it this way: "A circumcised heart means the cutting away that which hides impurity. The purpose is to remove all your secret impurities. You must expose all your secrets to God (Jer. 4:4); and God will circumcise your heart (Deut. 30:6)..." Is that the biblical definition of circumcision? No!
(a) Mr. Gothard frequently starts with his ethical notions and brings them to bear upon biblical words. So, for example, he uses his understanding of the necessity of good moral character and virtuous qualities to define what circumcision means.
(b) Simply put, circumcision is cutting off the foreskin of the male genital organ for ceremonial, religious, or hygienic reasons.
(c) While practiced by many ancient and modern cultures, biblically it was a specific sign and seal of the gracious covenant which God had made with man, particularly with Abraham on behalf of God’s people (Genesis 17). See also Gen. 17:12; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer.4:4; 9:25,26; Luke 2:21-24; John 7:22; Acts 15:1; Rom. 2:25; Gal. 2:3; Col. 2:11.
(d) Circumcision in the Bible speaks to or represents several things:
(1) It was an initiatory rite for believers and their children (Gen. 17:10-11; Ex. 12:48; Lev. 12:3), separating them as His people to Himself.
(2) It represented union and communion with a holy God (Gen. 17:7; Ex. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:6)
(3) It represented genuine biblical repentance (Jer. 4:4; 9:25; Lev. 26:40-41).
(4) It represented a heart cleansed by God (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Isa. 52:1)
(5) It indicated a separation from those out side the camp of true Faith (Ex. 12:48).
If Gothard’s definition is correct, then what shall we do with the circumcision of Jesus Christ? He had nothing to hide, and nothing impure to cut away (Psa. 2; 45; 110:1; Isa. 9; 53; Heb. 1. Compare also John 8:46; Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
Further, circumcision of the heart is an act which is done by God. Something which was required of God’s people to have, but couldn’t do on their own (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4). Circumcision of the heart was promised by God as His activity in the New Covenant (Ex. 36:24-28; Deut. 30:6; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 11:17-20 cp. John 6:45; 1 Jn. 2:27).
a. It is a gracious work of God, not our work of exposing hidden things of the heart.
b. It is impossible to truly circumcise our hearts on our own. What’s more, it is impossible to expose our secrets to God. God knows all things, nothing is hidden from Him - not even our secrets (Psa. 44:21). Yet, our hearts are so depraved that we don’t even know the worst that is within us.
(1) In Psalm 19:12 we see how the Psalmist asks God to cleanse those secret faults and presumptive sins.
(2) Psalm 90:8 also says that God has revealed our secret sins. They are already and always exposed. There is nothing hidden from Him. Yet when we are revealed these sins we are to confess them (Psalm 51 cp. 1 John 1:9).
(3) Ecclesiastes 12:14 demonstrates that God will Himself judge those secret things!
In 2 Timothy 3:15, Gothard adds to the meaning of “infant” by saying it “can include an unborn child.”
From the Men’s Manual, Volume 1, p. 47, he quotes and inserts his faulty definition to prove his principles: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul (our thoughts) [insert] and spirit (our motives) [insert]… and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
“Equity is applying God’s general principles to a specific situation.” (The Unexpected Enemy of Justice and Mercy: Supplementary Alumni Book, Volume 8, 1982; p.8).
Mr. Gothard’s use of Scripture is self-serving, inconsistent, and dangerous. Self-serving because he employs only such Scripture verses as fit his lesson. Inconsistent because he does not apply his method consistently to all of Scripture. Dangerous, since the method he employs with Scripture is the same method cult leaders employ.
6. He reads too much into various texts that the texts themselves do not prove.
a. For example, he tells us that the reason for Job’s problems is that he neglected his family.
b. He claims that Matthew 6:27,28 proves that one’s over-emphasis and concern about clothing is a way to conceal or deal with physical characteristics one does not like.
c. He has a blasphemous assertion from Luke 2 that Jesus struggled over whether He should pursue His calling from God or obey His parents. This is a serious distortion of the text and a slight against the sinless perfection of the person of Jesus Christ!
d. He uses Mark 3:27 to support his teaching that “Satan wants to bind us with sin and then bring destructive temptations to those under our spiritual care. We must learn how to use the Word of God to bind Satan and then rescue those who are taken captive by him.” (Men’s Manual, Vol. 1, p. 48). If this were so, then God would have commanded it clearly in His Word. He does not.
e. From Ephesians 5:26, husbands are told they must cleanse their wives by the Word. Gothard is taking the work of Christ and making it the work of man.
He said that daily cleansing comes by God’s Word (John 15:3; 17:17). But then he went on to say that husbands need to cleanse their wives by the Word according to Eph. 5:26. How do husbands do this? "As we get specific rhemas from God then we will be able to cleanse our wives... I've been asking God for rhemas for many years... when He gives a rhema, success occurs. He is giving direction. The most (emphasis mine) important thing for every man is to get rhemasfrom the Word-logos."
A complete evaluation is warranted on this point alone. This too is saved for a later paper. Yet a few points will be made in this regard:
a. This appears typical of Gothard’s hermeneutical approach. He would be hard pressed to find a good Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic linguist or biblical scholar who would support his position.
b. His supporting text, Ephesians 5:26 is a reference to the work of Jesus Christ, not the work of the husband. It is the work of Jesus Christ for His Church that Paul writes about, not the work of the husband for his wife.
c. Words have synonyms. What Gothard does is to take these synonyms and exploit one particular definition for each of the words in order to create a doctrine. In many instances in which he springboards teachings off of individual words, these words are used out of context. For example, Gothard makes many points out of the synonyms for Law: precept, teaching, statute, etc. Rather than looking upon each of these terms contextually, with flavorful nuances, and as synonyms, he sees them as distinguishable terms from which we can derive steps, principles, or rules for living. He does the same thing by making the two synonyms for “word” completely independent terms with completely independent doctrines. This is not a careful use of Scripture.
d. The terms rhemaand logos in the Scriptures are synonymous. To take them otherwise is to make something out of nothing; which is what he does. The contexts will bear out the meaning for each. Instead, Gothard reads his definition into the text.
(1) This leads him to faulty conclusions.
One such conclusion is to say that God speaks personally to you through the Bible by means of rhema, which I conclude must mean intuitive, spiritual communication that is perceived by one’s feelings. 
(2) Sadly, this places him in the company of cult groups who practice the same technique.
e. A simple reading of the Scripture, let alone any detailed study, will tell you that Scripture nowhere tells husbands to cleanse their wives by hearing God tell you what to do and what the wives are to do through some mystical revelation.
(1) This is extra-biblical language.
(2) This is an extra-biblical requirement.
(3) This denudes the wife’s personal responsibility to learn from the Word of God.
(4) This also sets up the man with an authority a bit beyond what he is entitled to have. Is the rhemahe receives from the Bible God’s revealed will for the wife? What if that contradicts a most reasonable or even biblical principle of life? What if that contradicts a rhemashe would receive. Is hers illegitimate? Less authoritative?
(5) What this sets up is a foundation for spiritual brow beating. I could give testimonials of this very thing happening; but I won’t.
f. In addition, what does he mean by cleansing? Is the husband atoning for his wife? What does it look like? What is the result? How does it happen? Spiritually? Physically? Morally? Gothard leaves that to assumption.
g. Allow me again to point out the superlative, most in “the most important thing for every man is to…” No further comment.
Mr. Gothard at the seminar and in his booklet, page 6, gives a testimony “from one who did it. When the husband tried to ‘cleanse his wife’ by getting her to read God’s Word, she reacted to him. He then began to concentrate on a personal program of memorization and meditation on key sections of Scripture.” He then gives the man’s account as to what happened: “As I began to memorize and meditate, her countenance began to brighten, her reactions to situations changed, and our relationship improved dramatically. She finally mentioned that she felt freer than she ever had in her life.” There’s more, but the reader gets the picture.
So what’s so wrong about this? Certainly I am glad for the couple, but this is so much magic and mysticism.
1. What does he mean that her countenance brightened? How so? Did his heart’s work in the logosgain him so much of the rhemathat it overflowed with spiritual ooze into his wife? If so, then wherein lies her responsibility?
2. The use of one person’s testimony does not verify anything. Testimonies do not necessarily prove teachings. The teachings of Scripture stand on their own merit, proven by other Scriptures. This was merely an example, not a proof, as implied.
3. This of course could be countered by other “testimonies” by those who tried this and it didn’t work. What do you say to those husbands who do this and such miraculous transformation doesn’t occur? Does this not imply that he has failed?
Even more serious, what does this say about the work of Jesus Christ? The fact remains, Jesus Christ cleanses the spouse, not the husband.
h. Out of Hebrews 12:17 he exhorted ministers that “God requires of a pastor to give account of the souls of his people so you must see into their hearts!” (Ministers Seminar, 1998).
i. From Genesis 18:32, II Chronicles 7:14, and II Thessalonians 2:3 Gothard demonstrates that civilizations are “not destroyed because of the wickedness of unbelievers, but because of the carnality of Christians” (Be Alert To Spiritual Danger: Supplementary Alumni Book, Volume 6, 1980; p. 2). This is not only a terrible distortion of what those verses teach, but contradicts thousands of years of history. For example, what about the destruction of the Inca and Aztec civilizations? There were not even any believers in those civilizations!
j. Galatians 4:2 is used to prove that the primary responsibility of the parents (is) to provide a Godly education for their sons and daughters – not the State. Children are to be ‘…under tutos and governors until the time appointed of the father’ (not the state).”
k. Some of the material borders on silly. Proverbs 6:6-8 advises us to think ahead like an ant and to make proper provision for the future. The simple illustration and context are very clear. But why leave it so simple and so easy? From the biblical illustration, Gothard develops an elaborate 20-point system (with drawings and illustrations) around ants.28 Men's Manual, Vol. 2, pp. 226-229. - Fisher
l. From he develops an oppressive doctrine of the sins of our forefathers, out of which comes a ridiculous teaching on adoption:
Direct Consequences of Our Forefathers' Sins
In one of his alumni booklets, Gothard states, "We were in Adam and a part of his sin."9 The imputation of Adam's sin to the human race is stated somewhat differently in Romans 5. That this has anything to do with the D.N.A. ladder, as Gothard goes on to state, is debatable. But Gothard's point is the extension of our solidarity with Adam. This, he believes, indicates that we and our physical children are under some kind of direct consequence, not just the social or environmental consequences, of our forefathers' acts of sinning. That being so, according to Gothard, we must agree with God about their sin and ask Him "to remove its consequences from us and from our children."
"Exegesis" refers to an interpretation, which is usually assumed to be on the basis of specific principles of interpretation (i.e., a specific "hermeneutic"). "Exegete" as a verb means "to interpret;" as a noun it refers to the person who does the interpreting. -Ed.
To enforce this view, Gothard cites the story of a 3-year-old girl who "did not want to believe in Jesus" until the parents realized their need to confess their sins and the sins of their forefathers. His use of Jeremiah's acknowledgment of the past and present idolatry of Israel (Jeremiah 14:20) is hardly adequate proof. His use of Exodus 20:5 demonstrates poor exegesis. Here he fails to understand this verse in context. He makes no attempt to discuss the national consequences of Israel's idolatry or to exegete the next verse.
Gothard emphasizes sins visited "upon the children unto the third and fourth generation" and neither emphasizes nor explains the pregnant phrase, "of them that hate me." It is also regrettable that he does not properly consider verse 6 "But showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments." His view is novel and as far as I know cannot be found in any major commentary. Here Gothard parts company with good men. A quick glance at his materials on adopted children shows an extension of this error.10 Here he teaches that the new parents of an adopted child must research the sins of the "biological parents," confessing them and casting the consequences off the child. He says: "Causes of Conflicts -- Adopted children are affected by the sins of their natural parents, and these sins are usually very severe."
"Steps to Resolve Conflicts -- If the child is too young to understand, pray for the child. Confess your sins and acknowledge the sins of the natural parents. Ask God to rebuke Satan and free the child from any unbelief or rebellion from the lives of the parents. Pray in the name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Then he goes on to say that if the adopted child is old enough, "Explain that just as physical weaknesses are passed down through parents, so are spiritual weaknesses such as pride, lust and rejection (see Exodus 20:5)." He then tips his hat to Exodus 20:6 and Ezekiel 18:20. But if these verses apply, what need is there of the "Step to Resolve the Conflict" in the first place? No such exorcistic ritual is ever hinted at anywhere in the Bible. -Fisher
7. A complete evaluation is warranted on this point alone. This too is saved for a later paper. Yet a few points will be made in this regard:
This appears typical of Gothard’s hermeneutical approach. He would be hard pressed to find a good Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic linguist or biblical scholar who would support his position.
His supporting text, Ephesians 5:26 is a reference to the work of Jesus Christ, not the work of the husband. It is the work of Jesus Christ for His Church which Paul writes about, not the work of the husband for his wife.
Words have synonyms. What Gothard does is to take these synonyms and exploit one particular definition for each of the words in order to create a doctrine. In many instances in which he springboards teachings off of individual words, these words are used out of context. For example, Gothard makes many points out of the synonyms for Law: precept, teaching, statute, etc. Rather than looking upon each of these terms contextually, with flavorful nuances, and as synonyms, he sees them as distinguishable terms from which we can derive steps, principles, or rules for living. He does the same thing by making the two synonyms for “word” completely independent terms with completely independent doctrines. This is not a careful use of Scripture.
The terms rhemaand logos in the Scriptures are synonymous. To take them otherwise is to make something out of nothing; which is what he does. The contexts will bear out the meaning for each. Instead, Gothard reads his definition into the text.
This leads him to faulty conclusions. One such conclusion is to say that God speaks personally to you through the Bible by means of rhema, which I conclude must mean intuitive, spiritual communication that is perceived by one’s feelings. 
Sadly, this places him in the company of cult groups who practice the same technique.
8. Applies pop-science or pop-psychology to Scripture and making “spiritual principles” out of them.
a. Using the now debunked theory of birth-order personalities Mr. Gothard develops the heretical notion that the personality of Jesus demonstrates he was a first-born child.
He twists Scripture to prove his teaching that it is crucially important to have a good self-image. Note his heretical and almost blasphemous statement that “self-acceptance is the basis for glorifying God and being conformed to the image of Christ."”(Secrets to Self-Acceptance, p. 23)
9. Gothard is notorious for taking those things of nature and eisegeting them so as to develop “spiritual principles.”
This is so far-fetched and quite dangerous. It is the same method employed by cults.
He has done this repeatedly with various cases from history.
He does this with animals.
He does this in the IBLP’s teaching on music.
Gothard tells fathers that “it is important that a father be able to interpret past and present world events in the light of Bible prophecy, and then live a life that is consistent with the urgency of that message.” He commands further, “See God’s news behind the news.” (Men’s Manual, Volume 1, p. 72, 75). This is a form of divination.
He develops the spiritual principle that an upright heart is necessary for good living. To prove this he claims that “scientific research” has demonstrated how a slouched body, not one that is upright, contributes to a bad heart. Then he claims, “This is why God tells us an upright heart is a healthy heart.” (Ministers’ Seminar, 1998)
10. He believes that the King James Version is the only true Word of God in the English, though he often uses paraphrased versions to substantiate various points.
11. Gothard believes in direct, extra-biblical communication from God.
12. He makes dogmatic assertions and therefore rules, some of which would fall into the category of “things indifferent” (Rom. 14).
All of Gothard's early materials make plain that he does not believe a divorce can take place for any reason whatsoever. He avoids the exception clause of Matthew 19:9 by saying Jesus is only speaking of Jewish betrothal. However, the Greek word mnesteuo(betrothal) is never mentioned in the chapter or context, only marriage. Tim Crater exposed Gothard's error in his article, "Bill Gothard's View of the Exception Clause."3 He exposed serious weaknesses and fallacies in Gothard's hermeneutical system and shows how Gothard relies on subjective impressions.
Gothard refers to the "Spirit of Scripture" and speaks of views as "confirmed by spiritual discernment," which led Crater to question Gothard's leaning toward mysticism and subjectivism in interpretation. Crater's conclusion: Gothard goes beyond Scripture.
Further confusion has been added by the publishing of Gothard's Rebuilder's Guide, in which he says, "The exception clause does refer to illegal marriages such as incest. It may also refer to immorality during the Jewish betrothal period."5
Gothard appeals to two pages of notes by Dr. Charles Ryrie for his subsequent inclusion of the incest statement. Yet, ironically, in the complete set of notes, which runs 17 pages and was issued by the Institute in 1981, Dr. Ryrie on page 6 dismisses the betrothal view by saying,
"Porenia is nowhere else used in the restricted sense of unchastity during the betrothal period." He goes on to state his view that incestuous marriages (forbidden in Lev. 18:6-18) give "the key to understanding ... the Matthean exception clause."6 -Fisher
DEVELOPS EXTRA-BIBLICAL DOCTRINES WHICH HE PROMOTES AS DOGMA
A. He gives far too much credit and power to Satan and demons than Scripture does.
There are many things (too many to detail here) which could open up one’s heart to being demon possessed, oppressed, or influenced. Such as opening the eye-gate or ear-gates of one’s mind and allowing demonic strongholds to take over by reading non-Christian philosophies, hearing music with drum beat, seeing Satanic symbols during Halloween, etc.
His whole teaching is extra-biblical and places adherents in a constant state of fear.
He developed a whole system of binding and rebuking Satan and his demons; a system which itself is similar to pagan rituals for removing evil spirits.
There is very little biblical anthropology. Instead there is an unbiblical overemphasis upon Satan’s influence, rather than recognizing the true depravity of man.
He gives Satan too much power, claiming that Satan knows your thoughts, weaknesses, and unspoken desires.
Then Mr. Gothard instructs people how to pray a hedge around you and your family to protect you from Satan. As one example, in step eleven of “How to guard your sons and daughters from destructive temptations”, you are to “Pray a daily ‘hedge around each child’”
In our struggle against evil, we are dealing with spiritual powers. Therefore we must put on the whole armor or God and stand against the attacks of the wicked one. ‘For the weapons of warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.’ One powerful weapon that every Christian father has is to pray a daily hedge of protection around each child. Job did this and Satan complained about its effectiveness against him: ‘Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side…’(Job 1:10).
There are three parts to the prayer for a hedge:
· First, ask God to bind and rebuke the power of Satan in the life of each one in your family. Be mighty through God to pull down his strongholds. (Mark 3:27)
· Second, pray in the name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 14:13). Christ’s name is Protector, the Good Shepherd that gives His life for His sheep.
· Third, claim the Scripture that relate to the kind of protection that is needed. For example: protection from sin, ‘For sin shall not have dominion over you…’ (Romans 6:14); protection from discouragement, ‘…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ (Hebrews 13:5).
“Views spiritual warfare for the believer to include mandatory binding and rebuking of Satan and his demons, and "praying a hedge of thorns" around one's estranged spouse (see Rebuilder's Guide, pp. 115, 119-121, 124). (Gothard also teaches the concept of "ancestral" demons.) Ed Soboso, a charismatic "spiritual warfare expert" has also appeared with Gothard at his seminars.19 A 1992 booklet, Ten Reasons for Alumni to Be Encouraged, describes a typical demon deliverance ritual now being conducted at various IBLP meetings. 20
Even spiritual warfare guru Neil Anderson (author of The Bondage Breaker) appeared with Gothard at a 6/94 Homeschooling Training Seminar in Knoxville, Tennessee. Almost without exception, demonizers are eradicationists. Via their experience-centered error, the old man is "crucified, dead and gone--extinct." Hence, it is a simple matter to substitute a demon for the indwelling old Adamic man. Cast out the demon of a specific symptom, and the individual is "delivered." (Source: Miles J. Stanford, 4/97 report, Gothardism: Charismatic & Covenant.)” Biblical Discernment Ministries: Bill Gothard, General Teachings and Activities.
“Satan wants to bind us with sin and then bring destructive temptations to those under our spiritual care. We must learn how to use the Word of God to bind Satan and then rescue those who are taken captive by him (Mark 3:27)” p 48, Vol 1 Men’s Manual
“Satan knows your weaknesses and your unspoken desires. Based on these, he plants suggestions in your mind. These suggestions are contrary to Scripture, and if acted upon, will cause you to sin. ‘…Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.’” P. 76 Men’s Manual vol 1
“Be a man of spiritual power: Use the word of God to conquer the power of Satan in your life and in your family:
1. realize that Satan is your constant enemy (1 Peter 5:8)
2. recognize that Satan attacks you by planting suggestions in your mind
3. Learn how to resist Satan in your mind
4. Become skillful in conquering Satan by the Word of God”
Note: Gothard says that the power of temptation comes from Satan, pages 99-100 of Men’s Vol 1, to overcome Satan, see pages 101-108
(See his teaching on binding Satan and building a wall of protection on pages 128ff of Men’s Vol 1)
B. His unbiblical teaching on adoption is so far removed from Scripture, and yet it is promoted as dogma (see “Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend to Have More Conflicts,” IBYC, 1982, pp. 1-2)
He uses only portions of Exodus 20:4ff to prove that the adopted child must research his or her biological parents’ background in order for the child to ask forgiveness, to ask God to remove the consequences of their sins, and for God to cast out any demons if possible.
He speaks against adoption altogether for fear of bringing those parental curses into your family.
“Incomplete exegesis of Exodus 20:4-6 (and apparent ignorance of Ezek. 18) has led to the unscriptural teaching that children are guilty for the sins of their forefathers.23 This is the Charismatic error of applying Old Testament generational retribution to the church (Miles J. Stanford, Gothardism: Charismatic & Covenant, 4/97, p. 1). For example, Gothard teaches that the “sons” must agree to the guilt and ask God to remove its consequences, and that parents of an adopted child should research the child’s biological parents and pray with the child for forgiveness, even casting out demons if necessary. He also warns against adopting a child altogether, because you might be adopting one that has been cursed (Exo. 20:4-6 again).24 (See Rebuilder’s Guide, pp. 160, 181; and “Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend to Have More Conflicts,” IBYC, 1982, pp. 1-2.) The only result of such a teaching is guilt—something Gothard seems to desire to produce in his followers.” Discernment Ministries: Bill Gothard, His Teachings and Activities.
C. Chain of command:
“There are three ways that you can motivate your family to remain under God-given authority: First, make sure that you are under God’s authority; second, explain what happens when anyone gets out from under authority; and third, illustrate this point through appropriate incidents in your own life, or in the lives of others.
Witchcraft is a devastating sin, but God states that the sin of rebellion is just like the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). Both sins take us out from under God’s protection and put us under the destructive power of Satan.
God places every person under authority - the authority of parents, government, Godly church leaders, and employer. Every human authority, however, is under the authority of God and the Bible.
As long as we are under God-ordained authority, Satan cannot get through to us with his destructive temptations. If we get out from under the protective covering of our authority, however, we expose ourselves to the realm and the power of Satan’s control” p. 41 Men’s Manuel Vol. 1
Part and parcel to his whole teaching on chain of command is an over-emphasis upon the authority of the father. His position is a return to ancient patriarchy and is a new form of patriarchalism. The problem with his teaching is that it gives too much authority and power to the father while discounting God’s progressive changes in redemptive history. That authority structure of Abraham’s day was modified through the work of Christ and the establishment of His New Covenant church. Gothard does not make clear the appropriate spheres of family, church, and state, and their levels of authority.
a. As one of many examples, Gothard teaches in Training Faithful Men, Resource Manual, p.71, “How to guard your sons and daughters from destructive temptations.” The seventh method is to “Explain God’s umbrella of protection: Your children must understand that as long as they are under your authority, they are protected from destructive temptation. However, if they get out from under your authority, they expose themselves to the realm and power of Satan’s control. (See 1 Samuel 15:23.) this requires that you have no ‘leaks’ in your umbrella and that you never instruct your children to do evil.” P. 72
b. “Gothard teaches that children are to obey parents even when they know God's will is something different. He teaches that there should be an unquestioning accountability to the authority of parents, even after the child moves into adulthood, and even if the parents are unsaved (cf. Psa. 1). This includes the requirement that both sets of parents consent unanimously in their son's or daughter's selection of marriage partners, again, even if the parents are both pagans. Failure to obey this requirement, according to Gothard, will always lead to future marriage problems (see Rebuilder's Guide, pp. 78, 110, 154, 224, 235). (He also teaches that women are always to obey their husbands instead of God in matters of conscience.)” (see Bill Gothard: His Teachings by Biblical Discernment Ministries).
D. Extreme views on judgment…
“One who judges will publicly expose those whom he condemns. This may cause others to condemn him for having the same root problem such as pride, lack of love, or a critical spirit. (Luke 6:37)” Training Faithful Men Resource Manual, p.52.
“One who reviles or rails has the basic objective of exposing one whom he has already judged. (Luke 23:39; Mark 15:29)” p. 54 Training Faithful Men Resource Manual.
E. Merry Heart vs. Discouragement
(Booklet, page 32 entitles this: A Merry Heart vs. a Discouraged Heart).
Purpose: to be joyful to God and to others
Mr. Gothard summarized this portion of the seminar with: "Now, what a dynamic thing it would be if your people had these hearts! God requires of a pastor to give account of the souls of his people so you must see into their hearts! This is what they must have! This is what you must do."
This was perhaps one of the more silly, yet dangerous statements Gothard made. He began this teaching on the hearts with a warning that to not understand the necessity for each person to have all twelve hearts would bring failure, he now warns and exhorts pastors and leaders that they MUST know the internal hearts of their people.
This is categorically wrong. He himself used to teach that to judge a person’s heart was wrong. Matthew 7:1ff tells us it is wrong. All we can do at best is discern the outward words and life of a person and measure that against the standard of the Scriptures. The implication of Romans 14:1ff is that we have no business to evaluate, criticize or judge another’s motives or matters of conscience. In fact, only God has that prerogative, not man (1 Cor. 4:5; Jas. 4:12).
No man can ever judge another person’s heart . Not even a pastor or spiritual leader. Indeed, of the list of duties belonging to elders and deacons not one is listed in Scripture that requires anything resembling what Gothard requires!
The text he uses from Hebrews 12:17 is distorted to say something it does not. To be sure, those with spiritual oversight will give account, not for the hearts of their people over whom they watch, but they will give account for how faithful they were as overseers who keep watch over their flock; NOT for how they look into their hearts to make sure they have all twelve hearts!
F. Uses the Old Testament Law’s Nazarite vow and applies it for today. That vow was completed by Christ and fulfilled in Him, and is not applicable for our day.
G. His views on revival are heavily borrowed from Charles Finney who believed that revival could be contrived by the proper mechanics or steps.
1. “Revival occurs when Christians influence the world.” (Applying Basic Principles: Supplementary Alumni Book,Volume 10, 1984; p. 13). In point 5 of his booklet (on page 17), one is told to “produce conviction from public testimonies.” "How do you get revival?” he asks in his lecture after elaborating a few points here. He quotes the famous revivalist Finney and then says “I made a careful study about what are those laws for revival... They worked in Illinois, so I said ‘I'm gonna try these same steps in South America. If I'm right, then revival should start in four days.’ Sure enough... What was the key? There is one verse (which he doesn't give) that is the amazing foundation for revival. It works! I knew that when I could get five testimonies, one for each principle (taught in his basics seminar), then you will have revival. Why you get one heart broken up and give the testimonies, for by two or three witnesses a thing is established... then you will have revival. It happens every time!"
This too could be a subject for a long analysis. Some have already done so. Clearly Mr. Gothard presupposes that revival is a mechanism that if done correctly will produce the intended effects. This is classic Finneyism at its best.
There are many psychological, sociological, but especially biblical problems with this. I will give only a few:
a. Such methodology is manipulative. By this I mean he uses a particular method as a means for achieving an intended result. It is the technique of sales rallies. There seems to be a dynamic of a crowd which has a remarkable influence upon the psyche of a person. Many have heard testimonials that are heart wrenching and moving in multi-level marketing meetings. Sales and recruitment soar during these meetings. One can also see such effects among Mormon meetings, Oneness Pentecostals, and even at political rallies. Often in such cases the end result (increased sales, sign-ups, or conversions) supposedly prove the legitimacy of those meetings. They don’t.
b. What this does demonstrate is that a person’s will can be relaxed or broken during an emotional event. But it also shows that at such times people are much more open to accepting the presentation of the leader(s).
c. Can the Holy Spirit make use of such meetings with the Word? Without a doubt. But, is it true that doing it this way guarantees true biblical revival? Not necessarily. There is a great danger in presuming too much upon the Lord here, or giving Him credit for things in which He may not be involved.
H. Emphasis upon character first rather than upon Christ first.
I. He promotes his own methodism, claiming that believers can achieve victory in the Christian life by applying his principles and methods:
“When we enter into Christ’s victory and engraft Romans 6 and 8 into our minds, wills, and emotions so that we can instantly quote it as we go to sleep at night and whenever we meet temptation during the day, we will experience the principle of moral freedom in our lives.” (Applying Basic Principles: Supplementary Alumni Book, Volume 10, 1984; p. 16)
Notice it is something the Christian is supposed to do, as if the Word is used like some magical incantation to help him in his immediate needs to gain victory.
“Mercy is given to those who affirm God’s righteous standards and confess their failure to achieve them.” In other words, mercy is given to those who get it right. Does this not contradict the very definition of mercy?
One must go through a process in order to yield to God: “How we yield to God
a. We experience a Scriptural prompting (e.g., to invite someone for a meal, or to acknowledge when we are wrong.
b. We visualize the action required to obey this prompting.
c. We make a decision to obey the prompting.
d. Our decision confirms that we are God’s servant.
e. We yield the members of our body to carry out God’s prompting (we use our mouth to invite someone for a meal, our hands to prepare it) (Romans 12:1-2).”
Training Faithful Men Resource Manual, p. 24
As Mr. Henzel has aptly put it, Gothard’s teachings are “Evangelical Talmudism.” Here are some examples of erroneous methods:
· “How to inspire hope and direction in others by the light in your eyes” (there are four steps).Ten Reasons for Alumni to Be Encouraged, p. 3
· “How to experience instant(emphasis mine) freedom from fear, anger, and depression.” Ten Reasons for Alumni to Be Encouraged, p. 8.
A man “asked God to cleanse him from the sin of immorality through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then he tried to ask God to take back the ‘ground’ he had given to Satan in this area, but again, the words would not come through his mouth. Finally after several tries, he said it, and a new and deeper peace instantly settled over his whole being. He stood up, lifted up his eyes, and said, ‘I’m free! I’m free!’
J. Emphasis upon saving our nation through morals.
“If you only teach people what their rights are, you will promote a rebellion; but if you teach them what their responsibilities are, you will promote a revival.” (Be Alert to Spiritual Danger: Supplementary Alumni Book, Volume 6, 1980; p. 3)
K. He promises success if you follow his teaching.
L. Claims that one will only have a merry heart when he achieves all eleven of the other proper hearts. (What about the fruit of the Spirit?)
M. “What parents allow in moderation, their children will excuse in excess.”
This often-quoted principle has become a mantra with some of the adherents to the Institute. For some families then, the tendency is toward a very strict a rigid discipline. The problem is that this is not a universal principle. For some this may be true, but certainly for others it is not true at all. To illustrate, what about those children whose parents drank and smoke, but the children in adulthood rejected both drinking and smoking altogether?
INTEGRATION AND USE OF FREUDIAN PSYCHOLOGY
1. The belief that reading Scripture to babies in the womb will saturate the subconscious mind. This is Freud’s invention and is no longer accepted in the field of clinical psychology.
2. Teaches that birth order will determine one’s personality. This is a spiritualized adaptation of psychologist Alfred Adler (anti-Christian), which has been proven to be without merit.
3. His application of the pop-psychological view of self-image, which becomes an important doctrine for living.
4. “In an 8/97 letter from Gothard, he pleads that his teaching cannot possibly be psychological because he was not trained in psychology nor has he "read the works of secular or Christian psychologists or psychiatrists."
However, it is not necessary to be trained in psychology to use psychological ideas. These psychological teachings have thoroughly saturated our society and the church has absorbed them. Gothard's work shows clear evidence of this through his teachings on self-acceptance, self-rejection, self-image, self-love, self-worth, and the need theology teachings of Larry Crabb. Contrary to Gothard's claim, none of this comes from "studying the Scriptures." (One attendee at a recent "All Day Ministers' Seminar" in New Jersey reports that pop psychologist Dr. James Dobson was favorably referred to many times by Gothard. In addition, left-brain/right-brain guru and self-love proponent Gary Smalley worked for Gothard for ten years.)
Also contradicting Gothard's claim that he is psychology-free, with all of his teachings firmly rooted in the Scriptures, is a 1993 booklet published by IBLP titled How to Conquer the Addiction of Rock Music. One section is titled (pp. 81-85), "How the Rock Beat Creates an Addiction: Explained by a Psychiatrist." The psychiatrist is a man by the name of Verle Bell, formerly of the Freudian-based Minirth-Meier Clinic (Chicago), who not only runs a psychological counseling "ministry" in the Chicago area, but has also conducted in-house teaching/training of the IBLP staff.” Biblical Discernment Ministries
5. Applies pop-science or pop-psychology to Scripture and making “spiritual principles” out of them.
Using the now debunked theory of birth-order personalities Mr. Gothard develops the heretical notion that the personality of Jesus demonstrates he was a first-born child.
He twists Scripture to prove his teaching that it is crucially important to have a good self-image.
Note his heretical and almost blasphemous statement that “self-acceptance is the basis for glorifying God and being conformed to the image of Christ."”(Secrets to Self-Acceptance, p. 23)
EXTRA-BIBLICAL RULES FOR LIFE
1. Regarding adoption
2. Men should not have facial hair since it is a sign of a lack of humility.
3. Women should only wear dresses.
4. Restrictions upon the kind of music one is permitted to listen.
The June 1990 edition of the Bookstore Journal noted that Gothard wanted to wipe out contemporary Christian music, believing it would undermine parent's authority and lead to a "life of sin," namely drugs and immorality.
Gothard launched his campaign against contemporary musical artists in two published booklets: Notice of Complaint Against The Unrecognized Enemy of The Church and Contemporary Christian Music: Ten Reasons Why the Rock Beat is Evil In Any Form. He again sought to bolster his point of view through a collection of witnesses who testified to the validity of his position. -Fisher
5. The types of smiles you should have.
What’s more, in the booklet, Mr. Gothard again demonstrates for us his awful hermeneutical approach when he says “A merry heart produces a bright countenance, especially bright eyes.”What proof do we have this is true? He quotes Matthew 6:22, “The light of the body is the eye…” which of course does not in any way substantiate this particular teaching. The point Jesus is notmaking is that the life of a person comes out of the eye, to be seen by others, but that it is “the light-bringer, the guide on which the entire body depends for illumination and direction. It is because of the eye that a man is able to make use of the light.”
How do you get a merry heart? Mr. Gothard tells us in his booklet:
Understand the power of a smile. “In a clinical study, actors were asked to mimic a smile. The effect of the smiles on their hormonal system was studied. Researchers discovered that even a mimicked smile produced beneficial results to their immune system. The study suggested that doctors might be giving out prescriptions for patients to smile so many hours a day. It certainly affirmed the Scripture ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…’ (Proverbs 17:22).”
Now, does this not contradict what he just said? That a “merry heart is a reward of having all the previous types of hearts?” Which is it? You get a merry heart by obtaining all twelve hearts or by “understanding the power of the smile” ?
I am in favor of smiling. I love to smile and laugh. Quite frankly it is what I wish more of his followers would do from the bottoms of their hearts! This teaching is wrong because it promotes a pharisaic life. Just to mimic a smile misses the point of his previous teaching and encourages people to do something which might not be in keeping with the moment or soul. This can by hypocritical. Smiling is good, and sometimes smiling does help. But there are occasions to frown, to be angry, to agonize, as well as to rejoice.” This doctrine of smiling is quite silly. It encourages the propensity for people to produce a smile in order to claim a merry heart, which implies one has arrived at the pinnacle, or has obtained all the other hearts. What’s worse, and there are occasions where this has happened, people will judge others as not having the right hearts because they aren’t smiling.
Another problem we have here is his use of “research’ to substantiate his doctrine of smiling. He says that this research (which incidentally is not cited), affirms Scripture (Prov. 17:22). Scripture does not need affirmations, though it may illustrate what the Bible says.
It gets even more silly:
Know and use three types of smiles. “The first type of smile is an obedient smile: we smile because God tells us to rejoice in all things.” Searching the 187 verses, there were many things about which people rejoiced. The most frequent exhortation was to rejoice in our Lord. Paul does tell us that we are to “rejoice always” in 1 Thess. 5:16. But he also tells us that we are to weep with others who are weeping (1 Cor. 7:30). Rejoicing is appropriate at the appropriate occasions; but the source of our joy is the Lord. Further, this text does not prove anything about an “obedient smile”! Here is yet another example of imposing a teaching or rule upon others which the Scripture does not do.
“The second type of smile is a ministry smile: we are saying to those who look at our faces, ‘I value you as a person, I am glad to see you, and I want to encourage you.’ “ Well, that may be true that we are expressing the desire of our hearts to minister to others through the expression of a smile. But this is not a Scriptural requirement.
“The third type of smile is a joyful smile: we smile because of a merry heart.”
Learn joyful songs and sing them to the Lord. Now this is a great recommendation, yet does it not also contradict what he said about having all the hearts first to receive the reward of a merry heart? Still, are not all these steps ways to drum up or contrive a merry heart?
6. There are God-given requirements for keeping your house in order.
7. Drinking alcohol is a terrible sin.
8. You should not hug anyone outside of the family for fear of impropriety, defilement, or arousing lusts.
9. You must develop the faithful heart in order to claim great exploits for God.
10. Husbands are responsible for and must spiritually cleanse their wives.
11. You may never read or study any human philosophies.
“What counsel should I give my sons and daughters if they are ever required to study ‘humanistic’ philosophies, or a false religion?” Men’s Manual, Vol. 1 pp 130-131
Yet another vivid illustration of Gothard's authoritarianism is found in his Men's Institute Curriculum, where a set of notes contains a page titled, "How to Make Your Worship Service a Source of Scriptural Power." Under the subheading, "God's Order" for worship is found:
"1. Enter with praise
2. Give sermon first
3. Confirm message with singing and testimonies
4. Examine self with Communion
5. Unite in righteous prayer
6. Conclude with the offering."20 -Fisher
Men's Institute Curriculum, (Oak Brook, Ill., Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1980), pg. 2.
13. Regulations on sex:
At his Advanced Seminars in 1983, Gothard introduced sex regulations based upon Old Testament commands. Under the session titled "Six Purposes, Principles, and Keys To Fulfillment In The Marriage Relationship," he told married couples to abstain from physical relations: 1. During the wife's menstrual cycle; 2. Seven days after the cycles; 3. 40 days after the birth of a son; 4. 80 days after the birth of a daughter; and 5. The evening prior to worship.14
This is Scripture twisting, legalism, an imposition of Mosaic ritual and a clear breach of 1 Corinthians 7:5. It is clear from 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, that Christians are not only under the New Covenant but that the Old Covenant of Moses has been abolished. So much of Gothard's teaching is based on an imposition of Old Testament legalism that flies in the face of Hebrews 8:7-13. His system is a subtle form and resurgence of the Ebionite error.15
Some may even find the sexual guidelines found in his 1986 volume, Research in Principles of Life Advance Seminar Textbook, intrusive and offensive. What most would feel is personal and private between a couple and their physician, Gothard spells out. -Fisher
LACK OF GOOD HONEST RESEARCH
1. The materials from IBLP will often quote one or two sources as scientific proof to substantiate their particular position or teaching. However, in the majority of cases only a name is given and rarely is an actual study cited. Is this good acceptable scholarship? In fact this does not even comport with the biblical principle of having a thing established by two or more witnesses.
2. One example is his whole teaching on training embryonic babies. Thus far the scientific “proof” is inconclusive and would not support his teaching.
EMPHASIZES GUILT OF THE CHRISTIAN AND IMPLIES HE HAS THE REMEDY
1. “We must never forget that a civilization is not destroyed because of the wickedness of unbelievers, but because of the carnality of Christians. This is why you are so important to what happens in our land!” (Be Alert to Spiritual Danger, Supplementary Alumni Book, Volume 6, 1980; p. 2).
2. “Mare and more, parents are becoming servants to ‘protective agencies’ of government. This is God’s judgment on Christian parents for not being alert soon enough to what is happening in the godless education of their sons and daughters” (Ibid., p. 3).
3. “The greatest force against evil is an alert Christian who is mighty in Spirit and able to detect and reject Satan’s lie” (Ibid., p. 14).
4. “The growth of false cults is a public indictment on the ineffectiveness of Christians” (Ibid., p. 14).
5. There is so much that we as Christians can and must do when wickedness increases. In fact, God’s judgment on cities and nations is directly related to what Christians do or fail to do” (Ibid., p. 22).
MR. GOTHARD IS INCONSISTENT IN WHAT HE TEACHES.
On the one hand, Gothard condemns the reading, let alone the study, of non-Christian philosophies. Yet, he spends a great deal of time throughout his literature and seminars quoting and explaining the philosophy of humanism. (for example, see Applying Basic Principles: Supplementary Alumni Book, Volume 10, 1984)
IMPLIES THAT IF YOU DISAGREE WITH HIS CONCLUSIONS YOU ARE UNBIBLICALLY WRONG
A. In The Unexpected Enemy of Justice and Mercy: Supplementary Alumni Book, Volume 8, 1982, he begins by asking, “Can you identify the enemy of justice and mercy?” Immediately following are six case studies which asks the reader to answer simply yes or no to a leading question. In most cases one would need more information to give a reasonable answer. Then, on the next page, he writes, “If you answered ‘no’ to any of the cases, you are siding with the enemy of justice.”
Each of the cases are taken from Christ’s teachings or parables and applied to social justice today. The problem is that the reader is not told this and is left to presume the answers will be in accord to American law.
It is likely that you would answer “yes” to one or more of the cases, presuming American law. However, the reader is immediately placed in the uncomfortable position of being ignorant or guilty. This sets the stage for Mr. Gothard to set the reader straight!
B. He does the same thing in his previous Volume 6. On the first page after the table of contents, he asks twenty-four questions. Many of them are straightforward. Some, however, can be understood in a couple of different ways. Nevertheless, on page 3 he emphatically writes, “If you marked anystatements ‘true’… YOU HAVE BEEN DECEIVED!” (emphasis his).
Now, these questions are unclear and misleading. For instance, “Children should be taught what their personal rights are. True or false?” Well, is he speaking about personal legal rights or is he talking about covetousness? He confuses the two, and concludes that the answer is false, “[t]he emphasis in educating a child should not be on personal rights but on God-given responsibilities.”
There is no hint about which a parent should emphasize! Additionally, a child shouldbe taught what his legal rights are, particularly when they concur with Scripture. For example, does not a child have a legal right NOT to be sexually or physically abused? Does a child not have a right to remain quiet when agents from Child Protective Services interrogates him without a lawyer present?
Methods for Sanctification
1. A pure Heart vs. Double Mindedness
Purpose: to be in God’s holy presence (Psalm 24:3-4)
It is not clear how he sees double-mindedness as the opposite of a pure heart. There are several antonyms to purity. Only one issue will be made of this, though more could be said on his view ofpurity and holiness. Gothard’s view of holiness seems similar to the Roman Catholic view of holiness, or even revivalist C. Finney’s view of holiness. That is, Christ’s work is sufficient foryour sins, up to a point, but the rest of the spiritual work is up to you.
In the booklet, on page 7, he writes, “The ultimate purpose of a pure heart is to be able tolove God and love others without any mixture of good and evil motives.” Apparently Gothard believes one could achieve this perfection this side of heaven. If not, that is what is implied.
2. How to Develop a Broken and Contrite Heart
is also rather informative, and sticks to the confines of Scripture’s clear instruction.
Then, he enters into a discussion on helping others to have a broken and contrite heart (also taught on pages 16 -17). He writes, “[t]he ministry of counseling and preaching is for the purpose of helping people break up the ‘fallow ground’ of their heart. However, as a person listens to sermons week after week, it is very possible for them to develop a resistance to the truth. In agricultural terms, this would be a ‘plow pan.’ “
Several steps are given, the first of which is to “recognize ‘plow pans’ of the heart. The second is to ‘appeal to the conscience of the listener.’ Here he tells us, “Information can appeal to the mind of the person, and touching stories may appeal to the emotions of a person; however the Apostle Paul appealed to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
Appealing to the conscience involves exposing the hidden sins and secrets within a person’s life.” Third, you must “get permission before appealing to their conscience;” after which you should “prepare precise questions.” He tells us the “following questions can be used to appeal to a person’s conscience.
· “Are there things you have done wrong that your parent’s don’t know about? (As long as you keep secrets, Satan is given authority in your life. But once you confess and forsake them, you will be free from Satan’s power.)”
This is a miserable teaching. God has providential rule and government over all the world, to include all unregenerates as well believing Christians (Psa. 7:12,13; 11:6; 65:2; 103:19; 104:14,21,28; 121:3; 139:16; Matt. 5:45; 6:26; 10:30; Acts 17:6; Rom. 8:28ff; Eph. 1:11) God has given Satan restrictedrule over the world (Job 1:12; 2:6; Luke 4:6; Rev. 17:8-14). Satan has no claim or controlling-power over a person who is in Christ.
· “Can anyone point a finger at you and say, ‘You have offended me, and you have never tried to make it right’?”
· “If I were to ask your parents, would they say that you have an obedient spirit, or would they say that you have a strong will?”
This is a poor choice of words. As believers we are to think and speak as biblically as we can. I have yet to find in Scripture a pronouncement against merely a strong will. Daniel’s will was strong and determined, but it was on the basis of biblical principle, as unto the Lord. A strong will can be good. I would suggest that the term defiant, or other such words of rebellion be used.
· “Have you ever stolen things from stores or homes, or have you ever damaged property and not asked forgiveness or made restitution?”
Are these the only or the best questions to ask?
3. In the booklet he has a definition of pride.
“There are several operational definitions of pride, such as ‘believing that I have achieved what God and others have done for me’ and ‘building all of life around myself and refusing to recognize God as God.” He continues on, but the irony I wish to bring out here is this:
a. His system of regimented sanctification encourages the mentality: “I have achieved or I am achieving what God has done for me.” His steps, secrets, plans, etc. clearly teach that a person can in his own strength achieve moral character, or virtue, or holiness, or whatever. There is an impoverished and disproportionate lack of teaching and emphasis upon the work of Jesus Christ for the sinner and His on-going work of grace by His Spirit. Frankly, Gothard’s and IBLP’s spirituality effectively produces such pride because it is unapologetically man centered!
b. Further, this system has helped to develop contemporary Pharisees. The observations of many, aside from my own, is that more than some IBLP folks have a presence which appears meek, but attitudes which breathe arrogance. We cannot judge these people’s hearts, but we can judge the fruit. So, for example: families who refuse to speak or touch others even within their own church because they wish to remain pure. Or, the condescending comments by girls of boys or boys of girls that they don’t dress as modestly as they should; or one man’s judgment of another that because he did not shave his beard he was filled with pride (facial hair being a sign of pride). Or the condescending look given at a young Christian family who own a television; and the refusal to socialize or get to know others even within the church because they might become influenced or contaminated by them. It is often said that the reason is because they do not wish to give Satan a stronghold in their lives, so they don’t fellowship with other believers. Frankly, the list seems endless.
The attitude often conveyed by IBLP advocates is that they have something others do not have, something which brings them closer to God, further from fellow man, some-thing which allows them to be more holy or pure, hence better than others.
4. You must circumcise your own heart
Yet, Gothard tells us that we can know “how to get a circumcised heart” on page 24 of his booklet. Again, this is man working to gain favor with God. Here is what he says:
(a) Make it your goal to worship God in your heart and spirit.
But, one cannot come, nor does he desire to come to worship unless God does the miraculous work of circumcising the heart! He quotes Philippians 3:3which contradicts his very point. Paul says that believers are already the circumcision, not that we come to worship God in order to get a circumcised heart! Scripture says that man does not wish to worship God at all, nor come to God (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Isa. 2:8; 64:6-8; Jer. 13:10; 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 12:40). Even the prohibition by God against false worship demonstrates man’s inclination to worship false gods, and not the true God (Deut. 4:19; 8:19; Psa.86:9; 81:9)
(b) Ask God to search out secret sins of your heart.
(c) Remember that the Heart is deceitful above all things.“Since we are prone to be deceived by our own hearts, it is essential that we expose every(emphasis mine) thought and motive to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. For the one who thinks he can trust his own heart, Scripture has a warning: “(he quotes Proverbs 28:26).
This is curious. We cannot know the depths of our own hearts and certainly cannot even begin to expose our every thought and motive to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit! Every thought? Impossible! Even in terms of the engagement of our time, we would spend our every waking moment thinking about our thoughts.
But what’s worse, is that Gothard tells us that we must do this work! No! We are to confess as the Holy Spirit convicts and convinces us of our sins (Acts 2:37; 1 John 1:5-10). He is at work in the life of the believer as the ever constant Refiner, the One Who convicts and convinces us of our sin by the ministry of the Word (Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 14:24ff, etc.)
Then, Mr. Gothard contradicts himself by telling us on the one hand to expose every thought and motives (which come from the heart) to the Spirit, yet not to trust our own hearts (which means we cannot even trust ourselves to expose our every thought and motive).
5. There are the Right Steps to having a Perfect heart vs. Lukewarm heart
(The booklet’s title on page 29 is A Perfect Heart vs. a Whorish Heart) Purpose: to show God's power (2 Chron. 16:9)
In his lecture he was not clear by what is meant to have a perfect heart. Does he mean perfect in the sense of sinless? Does he mean perfect in the sense of being without blemish of flaw? Does he mean perfect in the sense of complete? Further, how is a perfect heart the opposite of a lukewarm heart?
Yet in the booklet he more clearly defines for us that it perfect as “complete, whole.” He also clarifies that “a perfect heart does not mean a heart without flaws or failures.” This is a good point.
How does one have a perfect heart? Three ways, we are instructed:
1. Love God’s law (Psalm 19:7; 1:2-3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
2. Realize that a perfect heart is mandated by Scripture (Matt. 5:48; James 1:4; 1 Pet. 5:10; Heb. 13:20-21; 2 Cor. 13:11).
3. Discover and exercise your spiritual gift (Eph. 4:12-13; see also vv. 7-16).
 I suggested Jay Adam’s book Update on Christian Counseling, Volume Two, chapter seven for insight into this problem: Adams, Jay. Update on Christian Counseling, Volume Two. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Co., 1981). Another good reference is J.I. Packer’s God Has Spoken. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979 ,1993).
 Our seminar teacher, Gothard informed me in his reply that “On the matter of the husband cleansing his wife by the Word, you have misinterpreted what I was referring to and then made statement about what I believe, which are totally false.” At this juncture I thought we had hope of a biblical teaching and clarification. It was not the point about cleansing one’s wife that were misinterpreted, but “I have never taught, nor do I believe that Scripture ‘is perceived by one’s feelings’ as you state I do in point 1-D(1).” More on this later.
 The reader should note that our teacher did not comment on this or similarly serious issues in his letter.
 Mr. Gothard’s statement in his letter that he never taught nor believes that Scripture is perceived by one’s feelings. First, a little quibble about details: I never said he taught the Scripture can be perceived by feelings. I said that the rhema is the Word perceived by intuition, feelings, (see above). My second letter to him stated, “Then please be more specific about this teaching. If you do not receive a ‘rhema’ by intuition or gut perception or feeling while you are reading or meditating upon the ‘logos,’ then what is it you are doing to receive it? …Just how do you really, definitively know when you are receiving a ‘rhema’ if not by feelings? How do you distinguish the difference between rhema and logos? What do you mean by ‘inspired.’? How can the rhemabe inspired and not the logos?”
 Gothard’s retort to this was “you reach the shocking accusation ‘sadly, this places him in the company of cult groups who practice the same technique.’ If you had heard the message on this point, given by another speaker, you would have understood that he was not trying to use Scripture to control his wife, but rather, to cleanse his own life and allow God to work through him for the spiritual benefit of his wife. Depending upon how wide spread you have made this critique, I believe you owe the ATI families in your church an apology for associating them with a cult.” To which I answered, “As for calling you a cult, I said that this (your method of biblical interpretation and subsequent teaching) ‘places him in the company of cult groups who practice the same technique.’ If by this you understood I was saying you are a cult, then please forgive me. From what I have read, you endorse the basic essentials of the historic, Christian faith. However, let me clarify that your method of interpretation and your dogmatic assertions which you do not place under the scrutiny of the Church…is cult-like. Cults practice the same method.”
 The reader should note that Gothard did not comment on this or similarly serious issues in his letter.
 Mr. Gothard’s statement in his letter that he never taught nor believes that Scripture is perceived by one’s feelings. First, a little quibble about details: I never said he taught the Scripture can be perceived by feelings. I said that the rhemais the Word perceived by intuition, feelings, (see above). My second letter to him stated, “Then please be more specific about this teaching. If you do not receive a ‘rhema’ by intuition or gut perception or feeling while you are reading or meditating upon the ‘logos,’ then what is it you are doing to receive it? …Just how do you really, definitively know when you are receiving a ‘rhema’ if not by feelings? How do you distinguish the difference between rhema and logos? What do you mean by ‘inspired.’? How can the rhemabe inspired and not the logos?”
 The teacher’s retort to this was “you reach the shocking accusation ‘sadly, this places him in the company of cult groups who practice the same technique.’ If you had heard the message on this point, given by another speaker, you would have understood that he was not trying to use Scripture to control his wife, but rather, to cleanse his own life and allow God to work through him for the spiritual benefit of his wife. Depending upon how wide spread you have made this critique, I believe you owe the ATI families in your church an apology for associating them with a cult.” To which I answered, “As for calling you a cult, I said that this (your method of biblical interpretation and subsequent teaching) ‘places him in the company of cult groups who practice the same technique.’ If by this you understood I was saying you are a cult, then please forgive me. From what I have read, you endorse the basic essentials of the historic, Christian faith. However, let me clarify that your method of interpretation and your dogmatic assertions which you do not place under the scrutiny of the Church…is cult-like. Cults practice the same method.”
 Page 32. Mr. Gothard has a teaching about the importance of having a right countenance and in reading other’s eyes. From what I have gathered at this point, much of it sounds too mystical, and not unlike the practice of New Age medicine.
 Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew.(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 973, 1995) p. 346. I do not believe any biblical scholar or biblically astute commentator would agree with Mr. Gothard on his interpretation.
 Page 32.
For example, some of the things he tells us to consider for a broken heart is to look into the mirror of God’s Law (James 1:25), accept the reproach of enemies (Psalm 69:20, 109:22); live in the fear of God (Proverbs 23:17-18); prepare for participation at the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:29-30). In all there are ten ways.
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
For additional insight into Bill Gothard and his cult-like movement and teachings, see The Cult Next Door.